Adaptive sports could help level the playing field at Cabrini

By Lauren Giannone
October 9, 2019

Adaptive or para sports programs run parallel to varsity sports. They allow for reasonable modifications to the game so athletes who have varying disabilities can participate fairly.

Currently, less than one percent of colleges nationally have an openly advertised adaptive sports program.

Cabrini University does not offer any specific program, club or team dedicated to student-athletes who have physical disabilities. However, the Dixon Center and its facilities are ADA compliant, which allows for a more inclusive opportunity for physical activity.

The pool at the Dixon Center and Nerney Field House provides accessibility by offering an access ramp and access lift. Photo by Lauren Giannone

Edinboro University, nationally ranked for accessibility and services, has the only active collegiate adaptive sports program in Pennsylvania. Their program of over 35 years, offers activities depending on student interest and currently has wheelchair basketball. In years past, Edinboro offered swimming, bowling, exercise programs and snow tubing.

Edinboro’s campus models an inclusive environment for students who wish to participate in sports but who may not have otherwise had the same opportunity as others to do so.

Given Cabrini’s mission to social justice and concern for those in need, could an adaptive sports program create a similar experience for the campus and its surrounding community?

“It doesn’t cost anything to be of help to someone in need and by reaching out and offering assistance in a respectful way, it speaks volumes,” Kathleen M. Johnson, director of the Disability Resource Center, said.

Johnson pondered what it would be like to have an adaptive sports program that welcomes the community to play alongside students.

“Why not start to develop something at least community-wide, perhaps an adaptive club sport,” Johnson said. “This may start the conversation around accommodating students with mobility, hearing or vision challenges in the context of sports. Maybe prospective students looking for these accommodations will google that aspect of a college in their search box and be pleasantly surprised that a small school like Cabrini will offer that.”

There are students on campus who would benefit from a program like this. John Doughty is a freshman graphic design major at Cabrini with spina bifida, a condition that affects the spine. He currently participates in the Pennsylvania Center for Adaptive Sports.

“I personally think that adaptive sports should be marketed more than they are because it is a chance for people with special needs to do things that maybe they don’t think are possible, and it’s also a chance to boost their confidence,” Doughty said. “There are a lot of people with special needs who aren’t really treated fairly and I think adaptive sports are a really good outlet for the special needs community to express who they really are, rather than who people think they are.”

Some common reasons universities say that they can’t have an adaptive sports program is because there is not enough student interest, financial support or facility space.

According to Brad Koch, the director of athletics and recreation, the Cabrini campus simply does not have the space to occupy any more recreational activities both outside on the fields and inside the Dixon Center.

The Dixon Center doors open by use of an activation push button, allowing individuals to enter using little exertion. Photo by Lauren Giannone

“You don’t need to add facilities, you just have to be able to reserve them for a few hours a day to have these programs. If you have a gym that’s separate from your athletic facility, then why can’t you use that after classes? The problem is people don’t think there is a need for it, but because of the law they actually have to offer the opportunity,” James Glatch, head wheelchair basketball coach at Edinboro University, said during a phone interview.

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Lauren Giannone

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