Tagged with: ADA athletes children disabilities disability rights inclusion kids Physical Activity programs recreation sports wheelchair
It seems like yesterday when I was the “different” one. I was the kid who kept asking to play, the kid who kept screaming to let me onto the basketball court. I was the kid with one leg, the one who would make things harder on everyone else.
Today, more and more youth with disabilities seek to have the opportunity to be part of recreation and competitive sport. Now, more than ever, laws and opportunities are in place to make this a reality. Unfortunately, there is still great health disparities for children with disabilities. We have over 5.2 million children with disabilities but the opportunity for participation in recreation and competitive sport seems to fall by the way side. It appears that at times no one wants to step up and make these opportunities a reality. How disappointing it is for children and youth that have the greatest health disparity are not given the highest priority for participation in recreation and competitive sport. As we approach the celebration of the 25th year of ADA, it seems as if we still have many kids screaming to be let on the court.
Once the other kids let me on the court, I did make it harder on them. In a wheelchair I played against “able bodied” kids or “AB’s” I kept up and even surpassed these kids. Now I’m 21 years old and I’m a division one athlete. As I travel the country, I still see other kids that won’t be included due to a physical disability. My advice to those kids is to give up. No, not give up on their hopes and dreams but give up the thought that they aren’t good enough to play sports. Give up on the thought of a world in which we are not equal in body, mind, and spirit. Give up the idea that we are not the epitome of greatness in training.
How wonderful it will be for all youth with disabilities when inclusion can be a mainstream word that is part of every scholastic and educational system. That programs and athletic departments understand and embrace what inclusion really means. It means more sport programs, improved health, social development, and more educational opportunities. When I look at young kids with disabilities I see the future of athletics, the future of rugby, basketball, tennis and competitive sport. It is up to our generation to pave the way for these kids and to give up on the word “disabled” and to embrace the era of “inclusion.”
I know what I am, and I know the potential of youth with disabilities because I was once one of these youth. I,too, was wanting to get on the court and show that I am an athlete. We are, who we know we are. We are all athletes. It’s time to let all youth with disabilities have the opportunity to make things harder on everyone else.