During the past month, there have been several National Health and Fitness Expos and conferences held in conjunction with hundreds of colleges and universities in various regions of the country.
Some valuable insight on the movement of inclusive sports and recreation was reported by a company founded by a T-5 Paraplegic, Larry Pestes to address the needs of wheelchair users who wanted the same opportunity to do cardio and strength conditioning exercise as their able-bodied counterparts. This was being accomplished in their homes, gyms, and recreational facilities in their communities using treadmills. So, Larry invented the Wheelers’ Paramill, the wheelchair treadmill company.
The Wheeler’s team and their ambassador, Paralympian Josh wheeler, had the opportunity to be a part of many of these conferences as within these programs there was an emphasis placed on adaptive sports. Adaptive sports, also known as disability sports or parasports, are sports played by persons with a disability, including physical and intellectual disabilities.
Breakout session were provided in which Wheelers’ Paramill participated and sponsored:
Atlanta – Adaptive Sports Workshop – an educational style workshop that teaches the wheelchair sports of Handball, Basketball, and Football led by Association of Adapted Sports Programs (A.A.A.S.P.) and partnered with Blaze Sports. The training included an introduction of the sport, training stations, and a simulated game.
St. Louis – Understanding and Implementing Programs and Facilities to accommodate Adaptive Sports Programs and Disability Services at Colleges and Universities. Presentation by Maureen Gilbert, Coordinator of Campus Life and Adaptive Sports at the University of Illinois and Josh Wheeler, Silver Medalist for USA Paralympic Rugby Team.
“It was exciting to find so many individuals within these campus networks who were intrigued by potential adaptive sports (such as wheelchair basketball) that could be integrated into their rec programs as well as new exercise and cardio equipment (such as the Paramill) that caters to individuals in wheelchairs,” stated Scott Gollnick, VP Sales and Marketing for Wheeler’s.
They learned that the challenge faced by many universities in terms of implementation of adaptive sport and recreation programs into their campuses has less to do with budget for the equipment or the lack of interest, but older schools not having wheelchair access to and from their rec centers. Since many schools and centers were built hundreds of years ago at the top or bottom of hills with the only access being stairs or grassy hills, this needs to be addressed before training, equipment and programs can be made available.
Another issue throughout the country is the lack of knowledge or understanding of adaptive sports and the equipment that is needed to get a program up and running. This is changing thanks to the leadership of NIRSA (National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association) and the organizations that can provide this knowledge base. In Atlanta, at the NIRSA Region 2 conference, the AAASP (American Association of Adapted Sports) and Blaze Sports put on a clinic and demonstration for those campus recreation leaders attending that specific workshop, allowing them to participate and better understand the sport from an athlete’s perspective.
Coaches and athletes involved in adaptive sports at the youth level are hoping to see more opportunities open at the college level so that young individuals playing a sport like wheelchair basketball and fitness training within their community program can look forward to that same opportunity as a student at their University of choice.
At the Region 4 conference in St. Louis, Maureen Gilbert from the University of Illinois spoke on the history of adaptive sports at her school and how U of I came to be a leader in varsity adaptive sports. Dozens of campus rec leaders took advantage of Maureen’s knowledge and asked questions pertaining to the implementation of adaptive sports within their college or university.
The good news is that adaptive sports programs, facilities, and equipment appear to be on the radar of most colleges and universities. With some time and additional education and support from local communities, advocates, schools, and companies such as Wheelers’ Paramill, individuals in wheelchairs will be able to enjoy and share the same opportunities and benefits in college as every other student or faculty member.
Interestingly, interest and purchases of adaptive recreational and fitness equipment is growing in other countries such as in Canada, Mexico, China, and Poland.
If you want more information on how you can improve access or help your college, university, or local community tax-funded recreation programs to provide adaptive programs and equipment, you can follow the advice of Bev Vaughn, Cofounder/Executive Director of the American Association of Adapted Sports Programs:
Steps to implementing this in your community
Identify recreational opportunities that already exist in your community for all abilities.
Investigate what schools, local parks and recs and community organizations are offering to people for free or at low cost or to people with disabilities. Here is a great link from the Reeve Foundation to start with. Resources in Your Area
If none are being offered for this population, the next step is to address it by sending a letter of introduction.
- I want to implement adaptive sports and recreational programs. I can send you additional information or do a presentation. As an example, there is an organization that offers school-based athletics and this is a great example of what could be done in our community.
- Address your correspondence Director Level of Parks and Recreation, Administrator, Principle, Athletic Director or any decision maker of your community.
- Start at the top and they can pass it on to the person who can implement it.
- Request a one-on-one meeting.
- Find an advocate in your local community to assist you. Start at AdaptiveSports.org for introduction to someone who can assist you.
- Include links to best practices, names of organizatihttp://www.adaptivesports.org/ons (see below links) that are involved.
- Show that there is a population that could benefit from services that are not seen. Info can be provided from State department of education for school-based program, K-12. Adults’ numbers can be provided via the census bureau.
- CC: Your County Commissioner, Mayor, or other District Elected Officials
- Include your name, interest, background, and desired outcome.
- If you did not hear from them after several weeks, follow up with a phone call to know if they had time to review.
It doesn’t have to be TEAM sports. It can be programs like Yoga, bike clubs and dance or the use of fitness multi-purpose rooms / venues. Anything they can offer able-bodied population can provide an equitable opportunity.
Don’t be discouraged by low participation in the beginning.
You can add able-bodied individuals to play on teams if you do not have enough players for a team while the program is running.
Once more people learn about it, plan an outreach through regular communications, brochures, and announcements. Plus, have a staff person who can handle this as a liaison or representative for these responsibilities. Or perhaps, it could be a new position you can fill! Programs must have dedicated resources if they are to be successful.
Funding for school-based programs can come from State department of education, and the schools can pay for these services.
You can also just show up in classes or centers and say you want to participate!
If it is LA fitness or local private gym, they may be interested in working with individuals with disabilities. Do the same as above!
Wheeler’s Paramill is also offering a $500 sponsorship to anyone that can help facilitate the installation of the wheelchair treadmill in their local public or private gym, recreational facility, rehab center or school.
Wheelers’ Paramill $500 Sponsor Program Guidelines:
If you are a wheelchair user, contact us with the name of the center, gym or school you would like to purchase a ParaMill for your use and those in your community.
They will provide guidance on how you can assist in the process of educating the facility’s decision makers on the benefit and costs of the Paramill.
Once the facility agrees to purchase, the $500 will be provided in the following manner:
- Membership paid toward a local gym, trainer or fitness coach
- Paid toward a fitness or recreation class
- Credit of $500 toward Purchases of gloves, yoga pants, anti-shear shorts, pool lift or beach chair to help facilitate fitness from the PUSHLIVINGSTORE.com
You choose your way to greater fitness…ParaMill will pay provider directly.
Best Practices in Adapted Team Sports, provided by AAASP, the NFHS, and the NIAAA. http://adaptedsports.org/aaasp-nfhs-niaaa-best-practices-in-adapted-team-sports/
The Best Practices manual http://adaptedsports.org/