This story was originally published in 2016 for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario’s publication “Outspoken”.
By Katherine Kerr
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word 'wheelchair'?
This is the question I usually ask participants at the beginning of my workshops. I often hear responses, such as 'disabled' or 'handicapped,' which are common answers, as society often has us focus on a person's disability rather than their ability. This is something I wish to change.
I tell my workshop participants that the first word that comes to my mind is 'athlete.' I explain that some of the best athletes I know use a wheelchair for everyday use and for sport, and getting to know those athletes and their stories of perseverance and overcoming adversity, are why I wanted to start a 'Wheelchair Basketball Belleville' program in my hometown.
Currently, I am a full time pediatric occupational therapist with Quinte & District Rehabilitation. The Wheelchair Basketball program is a dream that I put on a vision board back in 2010, as I was completing my degree at Queen's University. This dream finally came to fruition at the beginning of 2015, when the YMCA of Central East Ontario-Belleville Branch contacted me to collaborate on this initiative.
Wheelchair Basketball Belleville is an opportunity for individuals of varying physical abilities and exceptionalities to participate in a game of basketball. We run a weekly Wheelchair Basketball night on Thursdays from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. The response from the community has been incredible. We play full five on five games every Thursday, and I am now conducting workshops at local schools at least once a week.
At the very end of my workshops, I pose the same question I ask in the beginning. The responses I usually receive from the students are truly moving and inspiring. Students will answer enthusiastically with words such as 'athlete, 'fun,' and sports.' One student even replied stating, “No matter what your disability, you are able to do anything you want to do.” This is why spreading awareness of adaptive sports is important, and this is why it continues to be a huge passion for me.
Everybody deserves that adrenaline rush, that feeling of scoring a winning basket or playing a game with your friends. Everybody does.
Let's focus on each other's abilities, and on what makes each of us exceptional.
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