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Inclusion In Sport

Last updated on April 30, 2020

Inclusion In Sport

As I was once an eager athlete myself, I thought it would be appropriate to apply our learning material from this semester to sport. I want to explore the relationship between athletics and disabilities, to find out whether more can be done to promote its accessibility and inclusivity for people with disabilities. Being an athlete has been such a pivotal part of my life and it has suddenly been ripped away from me.

The absence of sport has made me come to terms with how important it is in everyone’s lives. Opportunities in sport should be offered to all people regardless of race, gender, disability, etc. To ensure maximum inclusivity, in sporting activities, barrier-free design should be considered in the development process. Our responsibly as designers is to eliminate factors, which may limit opportunities for people with disabilities, and to also considering more contemporary inclusive design programs. 

Existing Programs

I want to explore the range of activities available to those with disabilities. One such program that offers adapted sports is Disabled Sports USA. When opening this website, I was surprised by the number of sports available for those with disabilities. The Center’s 39 sport offerings range from basketball to scuba diving, and even includes some unique sports, including sled hockey. I dove into the basketball offering to try to understand more about adapted sports.The website begins with a description of the history of the sport. Wheelchair basketball, for example, was first only offered to those with a spinal cord injury. Now, however, some athletes only require a wheelchair on the court and, after the game, get up and walk around for the rest of the day. The sport now includes athletes who have prosthetics, incomplete spinal cord injuries, or any other disability that prohibits them from playing non-adapted basketball. From here, disabled athletes can find the list of rules, division offerings, and even links to buy the necessary equipment for the sport. This felt like the complete package for those with disabilities, with a wide range of easily-accessible, options for sports. However, upon further investigation into Philadelphia-area offerings, I found it is not as simple to find a desired adapted sport.

Disabled Sports USA is a network of 140 local organizations, only spanning 42 states. Therefore, there are 8 states without offerings available. Focusing on the Philadelphia program, the biggest program in the area, it seems that the only sports available are climbing, cycling, rowing, kayaking, volleyball, skiing, triathlon, and yoga. There is no basketball, scuba diving, sled hockey, or the over 20 other sports listed on the initial website. Therefore, the issue with playing sports with a disability doesn’t seem to be adapting the sport to specific needs, but finding a local program that supports and organizes adapted sports. 

What Could SJU Do? 

So, it made me wonder what kind of opportunities there are at SJU? While the school has an Office of Student Disability Services, which ensures an equal learning opportunity for all students, the services do not include extra-curricular activities for those with disabilities. After noting this, an important realization occurred. Being involved in extracurriculars is just as important as being involved in the classroom; they offer relationships, enhanced learning, and community involvement. Additionally, staying active promotes a healthier lifestyle, which helps a student’s mental state and helps them succeed in the classroom. Thus, shouldn’t extracurriculars, including adapted sports, be available to students with disabilities at our university to truly ensure an equal learning opportunity?

There are a few ideas in mind as to how SJU can help with this issue. Foremost, SJU can partner with the Pennsylvania Center for Adapted Sports and offer their facilities. As adapted basketball isn’t offered in the Philadelphia-area, it is possible that SJU can offer their gyms to support the events. This would bring the adapted sport and program to current students with disabilities, and allow students without disabilities to get involved in the program. Secondly, SJU can develop these programs themselves to fit student’s desires. The Office of Student Disability Services can speak with these students to determine what activities they are interested in, and explore options to bring those activities to SJU. SJU can also provide specific equipment in their gyms which is self-accessible to students with disabilities, so those who don’t wish to join a sport can at least stay fit on their own. 

More Can Be Done!

In conclusion, it seems that those with disabilities are not limited in what sports they can play. Almost all sports have been adapted so that every person, despite disabilities, can enjoy them. However, there are not enough local offerings of these sports to make them widely available to all with disabilities. With this in mind, SJU can offer more opportunities for students with disabilities to make these sports more available. Having my sport ripped away from me only motivates me to make sure all sports are accessible to anyone who wants to enjoy them, and I hope SJU will begin to explore options to bring adapted-sports to students with disabilities.

-Penny Green, 2020

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