ADAPT Lab for Accessible and Inclusive Physical Activity


The ADAPT lab focuses on the relationship between physical activity and physical, psychosocial and mental health outcomes in marginalized groups, with a particular focus on persons living with disabilities. The research undertaken in the ADAPT lab aims to provide quality physical activity opportunities for persons of marginalized populations by developing and implementing reliable, evidence-based guidelines, interventions, practices and policies that are accessible and inclusive to all. 

Examples of some of the research foci explored in our lab include: 

  • Measuring the physical activity and sedentary behaviours of children and youth with disabilities 

  • Exploring the inclusive playground experiences of families of children with disabilities 

  • Examining quality participation experiences of Special Olympics athletes in Traditional and Unified Sport programs 

  • Developing evidence-based recommendations and practical strategies to support inclusive playground design and play 

  • Exploring the feasibility of online delivery modalities for promoting physical activity behaviour in youth and adults with physical disabilities 

  • Establishing collaborative researcher-community partner relationships for shaping the knowledge to action cycle to create more inclusive, accessible, and sustainable community-based practices and policies   

Areas of Focus in the ADAPT Lab: 

•    Exercise and Health Psychology  

•    Disability and Rehabilitation  

•    Behaviour Change Theories and Practical Application  

•    Inclusive Play and Physical Literacy  

•    Physical Activity Measurement  

•    Knowledge Translation 

Meet the ADAPT Team


Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos

Dr. Arbour-Nicitopoulos is an Associate Professor in Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education and an Advisory Member of the Mental Health and Physical Activity Research Centre at the University of Toronto. She is also an Adjunct Scientist at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, the Co-Director of Knowledge Mobilization for the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability, and an Associate Editor of Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly. Situated within the field of behavioural medicine, her research program is theory-driven, using both quantitative and qualitative methods to measure, understand, and change physical activity behaviour in persons experiencing disability. She has been Principal or co-Investigator on tri-council operating grants (i.e., Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canadian Institute of Health Research, and Canadian Foundation of Innovation), as well as other National (e.g., Rick Hansen Institute) and Provincial (Cancer Care Ontario, Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation) granting agencies and industry funders (e.g., Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, National Bank, Goodlife Kids Foundation). Her dedication to knowledge translation has garnered many symposia/panels, conference presentations, and invited academic and community talks. The research products that her research team has developed and disseminated include physical activity program training manuals and curricula for children and adults with disabilities, health professional training resources to support physical activity in disability populations, and tools to enhance individuals’ awareness of physical activity programs and policies.  

Dr. Arbour-Nicitopoulos has built a strong interdisciplinary network of national and international scientists, clinicians, and exercise and health practitioners in the areas of chronic disability and disease, child health, rehabilitation, and implementation science. She collaborates with academic researcher partners and clinical scientists from universities and research institutions across Canada and internationally. She also collaborates with local, provincial, and national community organizations specializing in childhood disability and health (e.g., Special Olympics, Canadian Institute for the Blind) as well as families and persons with disabilities. These diverse partnerships have enabled the research evidence and knowledge products stemming from her research program to more effectively reach their intended audiences in a manner that is accessible and more culturally responsive to the inclusion and access needs of the disability community. 

Google Scholar


Doctoral Students


Jonathan Hood is a former linebacker and top special teams player in the Canadian Football League (CFL) who has recently been appointed an Assistant professor at St. Francis Xavier University. He is currently completing his final year of a docroral degree in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto. During his athletic career in the CFL, Jonathan finished his Master’s degree at Western University, and became a motivational speaker, leadership coach, and youth mentor. Jonathan created the non-profit organization called Ahead of the Game to focus on youth empowerment based on the research on physical activity adherence and support during his Master’s degree in kinesiology from Western University. The formal mission of the organization is “to provide ‘side-lined’ (marginalized) youth with the support, motivation and resources they need to succeed, while increasing their self-confidence, and developing leadership skills to help them take charge of their lives and become engaged, contributing members of their community” (  

With these academic and professional activities overlapping over the years, Jonathan has been able to use research to inform his professional activities, while also using his leadership and advocacy to inform his research interests. His current research includes engaging young people in community based participatory research (CBPR) methods to design and facilitate mixed methods research projects in their communities. He also takes a scientific approach to the corporate world where he uses his skills as a researcher to help organizations (including charities) with curriculum development, program evaluation, organizational culture, leadership training, and sustainable practices. 


Nancy Huynh is a first year PhD student at the University of Toronto. Nancy completed her Master’s degree in Education at York University under the supervision of Gillian Parekh. Her research examined the barriers to physical activity for students with developmental disabilities in secondary school settings. In her Master’s Degree, she worked on anti-racist and equity research for marginalized groups within the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). These research projects looked at the achievement gap, de-streaming in schools, inclusive pedagogy, and anti-racist in math education. Nancy also holds a Bachelor’s in Education and is a secondary school teacher within the TDSB where she teachers Physical Education and Social Science. Nancy worked in priority schools within the TDSB as well as organized community programs in conjunction with the University of Toronto to promote the study of the sciences in disenfranchised communities. In her teaching practice, Nancy recognized the injustice that individuals with disabilities faced regarding having access to quality physical education experiences which further inspired her Masters research as well as PhD studies. Nancy’s PhD research is premised on working with community partners to create an adapted physical education program for secondary school students with disabilities within the TDSB.  


Maeghan James is a third year PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. She hold’s an MSc from the University of Toronto where she studied under the supervision of Dr. John Cairney, and a BScKin from McMaster University. Maeghan’s work is focused on motor development and physical activity in the early years. Specifically, Maeghan is interested in understanding how parents play a role during these critical years of development. Currently, Maeghan is evaluating the acceptability, feasibility and usability of an online platform designed to support parents in teaching motor and social-emotional skills to children ages 3 and 4 years old. Beyond her PhD dissertation work, Maeghan is also involved in projects related to adapted physical activity, Developmental Coordination Disorder, and inclusive playgrounds. In addition, Maeghan is the Research Coordinator for the National Physical Activity Measurement (NPAM) study.  

Outside of the ADAPT Lab, Maeghan is a member of the Capes for Kids Advisory Committee at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital and a board member of North American Pediatric Exercise Medicine. Maeghan is passionate about inclusion and creating equal and equitable opportunities for children of all abilities. This passion has led her to co-founding Inclusive Communities Canada – a Canadian non-profit organization that brings together students from post-secondary institutions across Canada to enhance inclusion within communities for children and youth of all abilities through advocacy and programming.  


Roxy O'Rourke is a second year PhD student at the University of Toronto. Roxy's research focus of body image in sport originated from a pre-professional dance career. As a PhD student, Roxy's goals include improving the understanding of body image in athletes with disabilities and developing educational resources for teachers and families. Roxy completed a Masters degree under the supervision of Dr. Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos after completing an undergraduate project in the ADAPT lab. Current projects include a systematic review on physical activity and anxiety in children and youth with disabilities and a qualitative study exploring experiences of Special Olympics athletes in Unified Sport. Roxy is extremely passionate about advocating for accessible spaces and the use of accessible language, as well as ensuring research is conducted with, rather than on, individuals with disabilities. Outside of Roxy’s work with the ADAPT lab, Roxy is the co-founder of One Athlete, an organization aiming to provide athletes with the education and tools to monitor signs of overtraining and relative energy deficiency syndrome (RED-S). 


research assistants 


Nikoleta is in her first year of completing her MScOT at the University of Toronto. She previously completed her B.Kin at the University of Toronto, where she worked as a student researcher with Dr. Kelly Arbour-Nicitopoulos. Having experience working with kids and youth with varying abilities, she took a particular interest in the field of adapted physical activity. In her fourth year of her B.Kin, she began volunteering with the ADAPT lab as a research placement student where she worked primarily on the Playground Blueprint Project. Following her placement, she continued to be a part of the ADAPT Lab team as a student volunteer, and currently as a research assistant continuing to work on the Playground Blueprint Project.  


undergaduate students


Olga Brankovan is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Toronto studying Kinesiology and Physical Education. Presently, she is working alongside researchers from the Bloorview Research Institute at the Critical Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (CDARS) Lab as Youth Advisor, where she has an opportunity to better understand social, cultural, and ethical scopes of children’s health and rehabilitation including examining how policies, practices, and values affect health, identity, and participation. With a strong focus on accessible parks and outdoor physical activity spaces, her focus will be on integrating COVID-19 safety policies into adapted physical activity designs, establishing a network of resources for accessible play, and ultimately develop “Return to Play” guidelines. 


Amanda Sottile is undergoing her third year at the University of Toronto studying Kinesiology and Physical Education. She is currently working at a Conductive Education school for kids with cerebral palsy and other neurological and physical disabilities. The school integrates the Ontario education curriculum with the physical therapy needs of each child in a one-on-one environment. She also is working alongside the inclusive programming team at the Jays Care Foundation. Assisting in program development in her current role, Amanda Sottile is particularly interested in the Playground Blueprint Study and furthering her experience working in the ADAPT lab. 



Canadian Disability Participation Project (CDPP) –  

Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability (ALACD) –  

Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, Inclusive Play Project  -  

Special Olympics Ontario –  

Variety Ontario –  

Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) -  

Holland Bloorview’s SPARK Lab -   


Former Trainees of the ADAPT Lab

Postdoctoral Fellows 

Emily Bremer, Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2021). Project coordination on: National Physical Activity Measurement (NPAM), Concussion Awareness Resource for Individuals with Disabilities, and LIFespan in Young Adults with Cerebral Palsy and Acquired Brain Injury projects. 

Denver Brown, Postdoctoral Fellow (2018-2020). Project coordination on Play Finds a Way project. 

Celina Shirazipour, Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-2018). Project coordination on the University of Toronto’s Sensory Motor Instrumental Learning Experience (S.M.I.L.E.) and  Play Finds a Way projects. 

Viviane Grassman Marques, Postdoctoral Fellow (2015-2016). Project coordination on Inclusive Physical Literacy in Children with Physical Disabilities. 

Research Staff 

Ritu Sharma, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2017-2021). Project coordinator: National Physical Activity Measurement (NPAM) Study.   

Christelle-Jean Chow, B. Kin, University of Toronto and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (2017-2020). Project coordinator: Igniting Fitness Possibilities (IFP) Program.  

Krista Camick, B. Kin, University of Toronto and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (2016-2018). Research Assistant: Igniting Fitness Possibilities (IFP) Program.  

Ryanne Perinpanayagam, B. Kin, University of Toronto (2017). Research Assistant: Inclusive Coaching Practices for Children with Disabilities. 

Tara Joy Knibbe, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2015-2017). Research Coordinator: Inclusive Coaching Practices for Children with Disabilities and Igniting Fitness Possibilities (IFP) Program.  


Krystn Orr, PhD, University of Toronto (2016-2020). Dissertation title: Recreational sport programs for emerging adults with a disability: Exploring quality experiences and the social environment. Supported by a Canada Graduate Doctoral Scholarship–Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2018 – 2020) and Sport Participation Research Initiative, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) (2019). 


Roxy O’Rourke, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2018-2020). Thesis title: Examining physical activity and mental health in young adults with disabilities. Supported by a Mitacs Accelerate (2019). 

Dragana Javorina, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2018-2020). Thesis title: Investigating the validity of the Fitbit ChargeHR in children with disabilities. 

Shannon Weissman, M.Sc., University of Toronto, (2017-2019). Thesis title: Exploring gaze behaviours and emotional responses towards videos of physically active individuals with physical or intellectual disabilities. Supported by a Ontario Graduate Scholarship (2018-2019) 

Ritu Sharma, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2015-2017). Thesis title: Examining the effects of a pilot online physical activity intervention targeting social cognitive variables in youth with physical disabilities. Supported by a Canada Graduate Masters Scholarship–Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2016-2017). 

Krystn Orr, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2014-2016). Thesis title: Youth sport participation and peer support among youth with physical disabilities: A qualitative analysis. Supported by a Canada Graduate Scholarship –Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2015-2016). 

Zlata Volfson, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2013-2016). Thesis title: A qualitative examination of theory-based factors of physical activity in youth with spina bifida: Application of the Theoretical Domains Framework. 

Samantha Jeske, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2013 – 2015). Thesis title: An examination of the receptivity and feasibility of a videoconference delivery of a group-based physical activity support program for adults with spinal cord injury. 

Markus Duncan, M.Sc., University of Toronto (2013 – 2014). Thesis title: The acute effects of physical activity on affect in persons with schizophrenia.