It's a common belief that disabilities make it impossible to do certain things. Sometimes that's true—but not nearly as often as people might assume. With the right support and accommodations, people with all manner of disabilities can participate in far more activities than society expects.
Take, for instance, a team sport like basketball. Can a person who can't see play that sport? How would they know where they are on the court? How would they know where to throw the ball or locate where the basket is? How could they keep track of where their teammates are and what they're doing?
Without a little imagination in answering them, those questions seem like they'd exclude blind people from being able to play basketball. However, when inclusion is the goal, human beings can figure out all kinds of ways to make the seemingly impossible happen.
High school basketball player Jules Hoogland is completely blind. As a junior at Zeeland East High School in Michigan, Hoogland plays on Zeeland's Unified Sports team made up of students with and without disabilities.
As she set up for a free throw, the crowd fell into a hush so Hoogland could hear the tapping of the basket so she could put the ball in the right spot. A fellow player ensured she was positioned for the shot, and Hoogland nailed it.
Not only was it a great shot, it was an awesome example of what support and inclusion can look like from both a school and a community.
Unified Sports is a program by Special Olympics that promotes inclusion in sports by bringing people with and without intellectual or physical disabilities together to play on the same team. Unified Sports teams are made up of people of similar age and skill to create a level playing field and to make practices and games both challenging and fun.
The goal is not so much for those without disabilities to "help" those with; rather, it's a way to empower everyone to have fun together through sports. Teammates work together to play their personal and collective best for the good of the team.
According to Special Olympics, about 1.4 million people worldwide take part in Unified Sports. What a beautiful way for everyone to benefit from the fun and camaraderie sports can provide, and to provide a way for people of all abilities and disabilities to build bonds of friendship.
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