Wheelchair basketball highlights SRU's President's Commission on Disability Issues



Nov. 7, 2017

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Tyler Eccles' most eye-opening experience occurred when he was blindfolded. Eccles, the student liaison for Slippery Rock University's President's Commission on Disability Issues, once used a blindfold to experience what it's like to be an attendee at a sports camp at SRU for visually impaired children.



"That taught me so much about working with people who are visually impaired," said Eccles, a senior interdisciplinary programs major from Volant. "It's amazing to me that, despite a disability, people can be so capable." It was that experience, and others like it, that hooked Eccles on serving on the commission.

In addition to advocating for disability-related initiatives at SRU, the PCDI sponsors programs that spread awareness about disability issues and also get students involved in activities that foster inclusivity for people with disabilities, both on and off campus.

A great example is wheelchair basketball, which is a focus of PCDI programs this year. The commission is sponsoring two showings of the wheelchair basketball movie "Rebound" at 6 p.m., Nov. 30, and 6 p.m., Dec. 7, in the Smith Student Center Theater. Following the Dec. 7 showing, three members of the Edinboro University men's wheelchair basketball team will share their experiences in a panel discussion. Immediately after the discussion, SRU students will be invited to watch and participate in a wheelchair basketball exhibition game with the Edinboro players at the Morrow Field House.



SRU's Office of Campus Recreation offers wheelchair basketball as an intramural sport, and the University's Adapted Physical Activity Council will host a wheelchair basketball tournament Nov. 19 in the Aebersold Student Recreation Center. The event will be used as a fundraiser to support additional wheelchair basketball activity on campus.

"Wheelchair basketball is an equalizer, in a sense, and it highlights that people with disabilities can play sports too," said Eccles, who is also president of the Adapted Physical Activity Council. "It's not as shocking as putting on a blindfold, but it's different and makes you think and appreciate what people with disabilities can do. A lot of people would argue it's not a disability; they just have other abilities."


Eccles recognizes that most, if not all, wheelchair basketball participants at SRU are able-bodied students. However, this type of "reverse inclusion" activity, where participants adapt the sport to people with disabilities, is important to grow the sport at SRU and elsewhere so that there are more opportunities for those with a disability. That type of approach is especially important in a small town like Slippery Rock, where it's rare to find enough people restricted to a wheelchair to field a team.

"Without having other people who are abled-bodied who want to play the game, we wouldn't be able to get anywhere," Eccles said. "That's why it's so important to include the people without disabilities in these sports because of what it means to people with disabilities."

According to SRU's Office of Disability Services, which provides accommodations to students such as note-taking services and private rooms for test-taking, there are 653 SRU students who are registered with a disability, more than 7 percent of the student population.

"We want to remove barriers for people with disabilities and provide a positive and inclusive environment," said Kim Coffaro, disability services manager and co-chair of the PCDI. "That means education, awareness and having these activities and collaborating with students. A lot of students are here specializing in fields where they want to help people with disabilities and that helps create a more positive climate."

David Krayesky, associate professor of biology and another PCDI co-chair, also recognizes the importance of getting more students involved, and not just those who assist people with disabilities, such as students in the special education, adapted physical activity, recreational therapy and other health-sciences programs.

"There's more identification of conditions because they are being properly identified and diagnosed," Krayesky said. "Another way we are broadening the scope is with students getting involved, because when they leave here we want them to have leadership experience assisting people with disabilities."

Eccles hopes that support for wheelchair basketball at SRU will grow into a formal intercollegiate team. The next step is getting another customized wheelchair designed for maneuvering for sports such as wheelchair basketball, which cost anywhere from $1,000 (used) to $3,000 (new). The Adapted Physical Activity Department, which has eight chairs, is in the process of adding two more so that students can compete in a regulation, five-on-five game.

For more information about the wheelchair basketball events at SRU, contact Eccles at tme1005@sru.edu or Wendy Fagan, instructor of physical and health education, at 724.738.2791 or wendy.fagan@sru.edu.

MEDIA CONTACT: Justin Zackal | 724.738.4854 | justin.zackal@sru.edu