Many times those with developmental mental or physical disabilities are discriminated against in our society. They are discriminated based solely on their disability, not on what they can and cannot do. Happily, in the sports arena, those with disabilities are getting a chance to display their skills.
For those that still believe that the loss of a limb makes someone unable to play sports, I strongly recommend that they see the film “Murder Ball”, a little seen 2005 documentary about wheel chair rugby, where athletes missing one or more limbs go all out in full contact mode to win a championship. I guarantee that anyone after seeing this movie will have a lot more respect for those with disabilities among us.
Snowboarding is widely considered an “extreme sport.” It gained mass exposure and popularity in the U.S. during the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Park City, Utah. Snowboarding can be a difficult sport to master as it combines elements of surfing, skateboarding and skiing. Yet, these days, we’re finding more and more people with disabilities on the snowboarding slopes.
A prime example of organizations working with disabled persons to help them achieve their full potential is Challenge Alaska which has worked with disabled athletes in Alaska for over twenty years. They are a non-profit organization that provides sports and therapeutic recreation opportunities for those with disabilities. This past winter, they worked with developmentally disabled students of all ages, instructing more than one thousand lessons, to teach them skiing and snowboarding skills.
A type of snowboarding that is becoming more popular for those with physical disabilities is Adaptive Snowboarding. Similar to the rugby sport mentioned above, adaptive snowboarding allows partially disabled sportsmen and women to participate in their sport. Although Adaptive Skiing has been around for a while, many people are just starting to become aware of Adaptive Snowboarding.
The sport is relatively new but manufacturers are already beginning to develop specialized snowboards and equipment built around the sport. Counts vary as to how many adaptive riders there are in the country with no one having a hard number, but everyone agrees that it’s popularity is growing rapidly. The short term goal is to eventually have Adaptive Snowboarding included as an athletic competition in the Winter Paralympic Games, possibly as soon as the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Whistler.
One organization at the forefront of teaching the sport of Adaptive Snowboarding is the non profit U.S. Adaptive Recreation Center at the Bear Mountain Ski Resort in California. They have a full staff of recreational therapists on board to lead and monitor the training. They accept people with disabilities of all types including blindness, autism, spinal cord injuries, missing limbs, partial paralysis, and many others. Adaptive Snowboard Training, consisting of one-on-one sessions, costs less than $100 a day which includes the cost of lift tickets and equipment.
Organizations like the Adaptive Recreation Center and Challenge Alaska are true to the idea that we can do anything if we put our minds to it and that our capabilities are more than our physical limitations. They have proven that snowboarding and other extreme sports can be enjoyed by people with a wide variety of disabilities if they are simply given the confidence to try and the equipment and opportunity to shine.