Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Say What? What about sports for children and individuals with disabilities?

Challenge, Competition, Camaraderie, Cooperation, and Commitment…..
What do they have in common?
All provide life lessons that will build character through involvement in sports.

I recently had an opportunity to meet with women from the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative, BAWSI (pronounced “bossy”). These female athletes and coaches inspire girls and young women with the example of leadership and community service. They are making a difference not only for girls, but beyond that; for boys and girls with disabilities by providing after school sports experiences for children, especially those in wheelchairs.

The San Jose Mercury News Sports Section, January 24, 2010, had a photo and short article featuring the Special Olympics of Northern California Floor Hockey competition. Not too much attention, but enough to mention and raise awareness…a start to featuring such events.

On Sunday, while preparing to sail San Francisco Bay with friends, I noticed a group of individuals in wheelchairs manning a large boat docked at South Beach Harbor. This group of individuals, along with their families and friends, were from the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors, BADS.org,

Because of these recent experiences, I have been educated and am delighted to learn that there are so many organizations providing sports activities for children with disabilities and special needs. In addition to these groups, the City of San Jose Office of Therapeutic Services, organizes sports activities for individuals with disabilities at various community centers around the city.

Soccer, hockey, basketball, bowling, skiing, skating, tennis are but a few sports activities available that provide accessibility for all individuals, regardless of ability or disability. The thrill of participation; being part of a group or team; the anticipation of games, events and activities; and, the joy of participating side by side with others will enrich the lives of all involved.

If you haven’t already done so, please look into the organizations in your community that offer sports activities for children and teens with special needs. If you already are involved, I hope you will share your experience with others.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Say What? Television and persons with disabilities

A recent scene of the TV episode “Glee” had members of the Glee Club in wheelchairs for three hours a day. In the same episode, a girl with Down’s syndrome tried out and made the cheerleading squad, even though she was criticized by her teacher/coach for her poor performance. But, as we learn at the end of the episode, the teacher/coach has a sister with Down’s syndrome. Their visit provides us with insight into a rare and tender moment with an otherwise prejudiced and difficult woman.

All of this is great since television provides us all with an opportunity to reinforce attitudes and raise awareness regarding individuals with disabilities, particularly those in wheelchairs. But it’s not all fun and games. In the end the music stops and unlike real life, the cast can get up and walk away.

Lynn Elber, of Associated Press, addresses this in the Arts & Entertainment section of The San Francisco Chronicle on Friday, November 13, 2009, when she states,

            “The scene in (Wednesday’s) episode of the hit Fox series “Glee” is yet
            another uplifting moment—except to those in the entertainment industry
            with disabilities and their advocates.”
            “For them, casting of a non-disabled actor to play the paraplegic high school
            student is another blown chance to hire a performer who truly fits the role”

            “Executive producer Brad Falchuk states, ‘It was very hard to find people
            who could really sing, really act and have that charisma you need on TV.’”

Have you seen “Glee”? What are your thoughts?


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Say What? Shopping in a Wheelchair

Happy New Year everyone!
In the course of the holiday season I had the opportunity to do some shopping with my granddaughter (who is in a wheelchair) at a large indoor mall and at Union Square in San Francisco.

For starters, the inconsistent response by the general public to those in wheelchairs is notable. Some individuals are courteous; help with opening doors, move aside, and, in general, are pleasant and eager to assist in some way. On the other hand, there are those individuals who are outright rude; who refuse to move so you can pass, jump over or in front of the wheelchair to get ahead of you, let doors close behind them rather than help (even when they notice your obvious difficulty), and make no effort to assist in any way but rather give you unpleasant glares for inconveniencing them.   One of the most difficult situations is getting in and out of a crowded elevator with people who refuse to move.

If that isn’t enough, many smaller shops and stores have no consideration for those in wheelchairs, walkers, or even twin strollers. The aisles are so small or crowded that it is impossible to maneuver or get to the merchandise. Needless to say, those stores missed out on any purchases from me. Fortunately, the larger department and chain stores have adhered to the ADA standards of making all aisles accessible to everyone. Two stores in San Francisco, very large and popular chains, had so much merchandise on the racks, spilling over tables, and on the floor that it was impossible to pass. The safety factor in case of an emergency would put everyone at risk, let alone an individual in a wheelchair.

Make no mistake---help from others is not expected, but it is always appreciated. I hope retailers will broaden their awareness by making sure that their entrances, exits and aisles are accessible and safe for everyone, and that consumers will take a moment to extend simple courtesies when the need arises.