OrangeAbility combats disability discrimination in sports

Disability Student Union’s event OrangeAbility created a space where people with and without disabilities play accessible sports together.

On Sunday April 2, the Disability Student Union (DSU) hosted their annual event, OrangeAbility. OrangeAbility is an accessible sports expo, which gives people with and without disabilities the opportunity to try sports that are inclusive to all ability levels, such as wheelchair basketball or sled hockey.

Families, students and people from the area came to the Women’s Building to participate in OrangeAbility. Otto the Orange boosted morale at the event. People who are chair users, deaf, autistic and identify with other disabilities were athletic and competitive alongside people without disabilities.

Photo: Michaela Quigley
On Sunday, people of all ages, including Otto the Orange, came to OrangeAbility to get active and try accessible sports like wheelchair basketball.

“I came in contact with people who I may not have come in contact with normally,” said Priya Penner, political science and citizenship and civic engagement freshman.

“When I was growing up there weren’t a lot of places for me to come out and just sort of be, to learn about sports, to learn about my community and be included. This is really one of those events.”

One of the most popular sports at the event was wheelchair basketball. While it was not scheduled for the whole event, people played the sport the entire time. The wheelchairs for the game are structured differently than everyday chairs. The seats are typically lower, and the wheels are angled to ensure more stability so when players collide, their wheelchairs don’t tip over. People also participated in wheelchair tennis, dancing, meditation and sled hockey.

The Orange Girl Feature Twirler, communication sciences and disorders senior Meghan Sinisi, taught baton twirling lessons. She gathered her extra batons and brought them for the class, which consisted of about 11 to 12 people. She began with the fundamentals of twirling and then moved to more advanced tricks.

“I loved how much everyone tried to learn the tricks. It’s really tough so it’s nice when people try to persevere instead of putting the baton down or walking away,” Sinisi said.

Chancellor Kent Syverud twirled with Sinisi and the rest of the class. He and his wife, Dr. Ruth Chen, also rode the accessible bikes, which was DSU President Lawrence Sloane’s favorite part of the event.

Move Along, Inc., Bike-On, and Student Association provided more than 10 different bicycles. Recumbent bikes, which offer back support and recline, allow some of the pressure to be taken off of a rider’s legs and knees.  There are also recumbent tricycles to allow more stability. OrangeAbility offered handcycles, so instead of riders pedaling with their feet, they pedaled with their hands.

As Penner mentioned, as much as OrangeAbility is about the sports, the social aspect is also important. OrangeAbility creates a safe space for people to talk to others about their experiences, whether that is in sports or about life in general.

“I was watching people with multiple identities from multiple constituent groups, who all have the same disability identity in common but have never met each other before,” said Diane Wiener, director of the Disability Cultural Center and DSU advisor. “They were different ages, different generations, came from different social experiences, and different ethnic and international backgrounds. They were all hanging out and just talking and laughing and being with each other.”

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