Syracuse University presented a different aspect of accommodations for people with disabilities this weekend. OrangeAbility offered a day of inclusive and adaptive hockey, basketball, tennis, and more for students and Central New Yorkers who identify with a disability. President of the Disability Student Union Priya Penner said that sports are essential to disability culture, especially at SU.
“We really like focusing on sports with this particular event because Syracuse University is such a big sports school,” said Penner. “Also sports generally just bring people together, there’s that camaraderie within teams, there's a lot that makes sports a really awesome lens to look into disability culture and disability pride.”
But for many of the athletes, sports are more than just a fun social activity. They can also be a life changing development.
Jeff Wright is Executive Director of Move Along Inc., an adaptive sports non-profit organization. He says athletics push the limits of what it means to use wheelchair.
“Once people realize they are not defined by their disability, but they are defined by what they have ability yet to do, the world opens back up,” Wright said. “They have a lot of fun, they re-engage in life, the depression lifts, PTSD can lift a little. All these are benefits of getting out and getting active again.”
While the event was mostly meant for students with disabilities, everyone who came was encouraged to play the adaptive sports. Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Dr. Ruth Chen partook in the various activities, and has a newfound appreciation for the physical and mental challenge adaptive athletics has to offer.
“I have learned a lot by seeing the enthusiasm of the organizers and the participants. It is certainly a new experience for me, in a wheelchair, and I appreciate the difficulties,” said Chen.
Syracuse University has been working on disability issues and rights for decades, having founded the first program in 1994. SU ranks highly in accessibility and disability education compared to other colleges. However, Priya Penner says that there is a lot of work that still needs to be done. As a disabled student on campus herself, she says that accessibility could be better, especially in fraternities and sororities.
For more activities that raise disability awareness, visit Move Along, Inc.’s website or click here.