Sports Provide a Welcome Outlet for the Disabled

wheelchair basketball

Sports Provide a Welcome Outlet for the Disabled by Aldene Fredenburg

In years past, a serious physical disability meant unemployment,
isolation, and inactivity for many thousands of people.

No longer. While the Americans with Disabilities Act has opened
up the workplace and public facilities to people with
disabilities, many organizations around the country have sprung
up, offering access to sports programs both for wheelchair-bound
individuals and amputees with artificial prosthetic devices.
Disabled people are experiencing the joy of participating in
Alpine and cross-country skiing, all kinds of water sports from
swimming to sailing to scuba diving, and even more extreme
sports such as mountain climbing and sky diving.

The importance of both competitive and recreational sports for
individuals with disabilities can't be overestimated.
Particularly for formerly able-bodied people who find themselves
disabled, sports can serve as a tremendous motivation in the
rehabilitation process and can help alleviate the depression,
confusion, and loss of self-esteem that often accompanies a
debilitating injury. For those born with a serious disability,
sports can serve as an important way of connecting to the
'abled' world.

Competitive sports for the disabled are experiencing phenomenal
success. The world-wide organization now known as the Paralympic
Games was founded in Rome, Italy, in 1960, inspired by a 1948
competition organized in England for disabled World War II
veterans. According to the Paralympic Games website, participating athletes compete in a variety of sports based on one of six disability-based classifications: amputee, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, visual impairment, intellectual disability, and a general group including individual disabilities which do not fit into one of the other five categories.

Both summer and winter sports competitions give disabled
athletes the change to compete in a variety of sports; the list
of summer sports includes 21 different competitive sports,
ranging from archery and cycling to equestrian, powerlifting and
judo. Five competitions designed specifically for wheelchair-bound athletes include basketball, dancing, fencing, rugby, and tennis. The list of winter sports is smaller, but no less challenging: athletes can compete in either Alpine or Nordic skiing, ice sledge hockey, and wheelchair curling.

Children with physical disabilities have special challenges;
they're dealing with sometimes substantial limitations at the
same time that they are meeting all the other demands of
becoming competent, balanced, emotionally and mentally healthy
human beings. The National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD)
offers opportunities for children to take part in a wide range
of sports activities, from skiing, ski racing, snowboarding and
snowshoeing in the winter to rafting, horseback riding, and
in-line skating in the summer.

The Paralympics and NSCD are only two of many organizations
founded to involve disabled individuals in sports. It's evident,
from the success and increasing popularity of these
organizations, that both adults and children with disabilities
benefit greatly from participating in adaptive sports
activities, and that the benefit extends to all aspects of their
lives.

Copyright 2005 Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire and frequently contributes to Tips and
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