Wheelchair basketball team to play on campus

Emma Collins

The Annual Wheelchair Basketbrawl game will kick off the first of several events for Disability Awareness Month today at the Preston Center.

The game is being hosted by the Student Accessibility Resource Center, or SARC, and will feature players from Nashville’s Music City Lightning, a wheelchair basketball team. Matt Davis, assistant director of student services at SARC, said the game and other events throughout October and November will show people that having a disability does not mean an individual has to be cut off from the community.

“That doesn’t mean you can’t be active and you can’t be a part of other things in the community,” Davis said.

Tyler Winklepleck, a graduate student from Owensboro and an intern at SARC, said the wheelchair basketball game and Disability Awareness Month as a whole will help showcase the abilities of people with disabilities. He said one problem at WKU and around the country is the lack of knowledge people have about disabilities, and educating people will help with some of the difficulties people with disabilities encounter.

“It’s just one of the issues we’re trying to fix with the Disability Awareness Month,” Winklepleck said.

Wheelchair basketball is played by the rules of college basketball, but players are allowed to push their wheelchair two times for one dribble of the ball, Davis said. Players also use special chairs designed specifically for wheelchair basketball.

Davis said he played for the Music City Lightning basketball team for several years. He said he found the team after he met someone who introduced him to murderball, or wheelchair rugby. Eventually, Davis found his way to the basketball team.

Davis said playing on the team introduced him to people who understood what it is like to live with a disability. He said they understand each other’s difficulties and sense of humor.

“It gave me a connection with people who are more like me,” Davis said of wheelchair sports.

Davis said he challenges himself to bring other sports to campus to showcase the abilities of people with disabilities. He said many people only think about wheelchair basketball when they think of wheelchair sports, but many other sports have been adapted for wheelchairs, including tennis, softball, fishing and racing.

Other sports have also been adapted. Davis said he once played Goalball, a sport designed for individuals with vision impairments. There are six players on the court at one time, three for each team. Competitors play on their hands and knees while trying to throw a ball into their opponent’s’ net, according to the official website of the Paralympic Movement. Davis said he would like to bring Goalball to campus one day.

The basketball game is sponsored by the Department of Intramural Recreational Sports and The National Wheelcats, Inc., which provides the wheelchairs for the Music City Lightning. Davis said everyone is invited to attend and people without a WKU ID will be able to enter Preston and watch the game.

“I wouldn’t let it being at the Preston Center be a reason to prevent someone in the community from coming,” Davis said.

The game will start at 6 p.m, and the Music City Lightning team will be split into two teams. Davis said he hopes to also have some WKU students on the teams. After the game is finished, people in the crowd will be invited to try the sport.

Two other events have been planned for Disability Awareness Month. The first is Lunch & Learn: Teaching and Interacting with Students with Disabilities on Oct. 20 at noon. The lunch will be held in the Cupola Room in Fresh Food. Those interested in attending must RSVP by emailing [email protected]

Davis said the lunch will give faculty members a chance to ask questions about SARC and the accommodations some students receive. He said the faculty members receive notifications from SARC, but they may not know very much about working with students with special accommodations.

Davis said SARC is not allowed to disclose a student’s disability, and it is up to the student to talk with the faculty member about the necessary accommodations. He said most of the students SARC works with have a “hidden disability,” such as a learning disability or seizures, and this can make some people wonder why a student receives accommodations. Davis said the purpose of the lunch is to answer questions and help explain why students need accommodations and how to work with them.

The final event will be a meeting for the student group Mastering Accessible Possibilities for Students on Nov. 8 in room 1074 of the Downing Student Union. MAPS is a student organization that works “to change the way people look at having a disability,” according to the group’s webpage on WKU’s website.

Winklepleck said anyone who comes to the MAPS meeting will meet many people with different disabilities working together to try to find a way to improve both WKU’s campus and Bowling Green. He said the organization also provides a support network for students.

“It just gives a chance to everyone to have people with the same characteristics just to interact and hang out [with],” Winklepleck said.

Reporter Emma Collins can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].