James Madison University

The Heart of Disabilities Sports

By Vilina Phan
Posted: August 9, 2011

View Photos from Event

In an effort to beat stereotypes and inform the campus community, the Office of Disability Services hosted Disability Awareness Week March 28-April 1.The week wrapped up with a sports showcase sponsored by the kinesiology department.

“Kinesiology is the study of human movement, individuals with disabilities can move, but in a different way. Look at all the incredible things they can do, someone may be blind, but all their other senses are very keen, the body compensates with its functional limbs when a given body part is non-functional,” said kinesiology professor, Thomas Moran.   

Shouts filled the gym of Goodwin Hall, as students raced down the court, one hand on the basketball and the other on a wheel pushing  themselves to the hoop. The purpose of the showcase was to help students understand that disability is only a mindset, and just like with any able bodied sport, to succeed it takes endurance, strength and passion. “Disability sports is very exciting…it’s incredible to be able to shoot a ball into a 10 ft hoop, but seated,” said Moran

Invited to this event, were not only students and faculty but also the Charlotte Cardinals and the High Rollers, two organized wheelchair basketball teams local to Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, respectively. The members present were there to assist the able-bodied players by teaching them the tips and tricks to a wheelchair.

In addition to wheelchair basketball was sit volleyball, goal ball, beep baseball, power soccer, sled hockey and a wheelchair scavenger hunt

Sit volleyball is played with a net about 3.5 feet high and a court that is 10 by 6 meters. Players at all times must have at least one “cheek” on the ground for plays to be legal. Goal ball is a game designed for the blind, where each player relies on their sense of hearing. The object of the game is to throw the ball in the opposing team’s goal. Also designed for the visually impaired is beep baseball, where players dive onto the ground to stop a beeping ball, and proceed to run towards the sound of a buzzing base to score points. Power soccer, typically played on a basketball court, is played similar to conventional soccer except with a 13 inch soccer ball. Sledge hockey (similar to ice hockey) rules and regulations are played with a sledge (a form of a sled) used by players to move around the rink. During the sports showcase, sledge hockey was played on scooters, but players still enjoyed the experience and were able to get a feel for the sport.

“[The showcase] was a unique experience, my students got to learn about different disability sports, and a lot of them aren’t even kinesiology students…but they are really interested in working with individuals with disabilities,” said Moran.

Rounding off the event was the wheelchair scavenger hunt. This allowed participants to actively experience a variety of disabilities as they navigate the halls of Godwin, blind with only a walking cane and sighted guide, or in a wheelchair.

“The showcase displayed one: what it’s like to have a disability and two: the exciting sports opportunities that’s available,” said Moran.

The day wasn’t about winning or competition, it was instead about creating awareness and understanding. Instead of pity they want acknowledgement and recognition that being disabled is not necessarily a disadvantage, but an alternative way to live.  It’s not about having a disability, its more about what you do with your disability or ability that counts – their disability provides them access to some pretty amazing and exciting sports & opportunities.