Parapan American Games 2015 and Furthering the Inclusion Game

Posted by Candace Cable in Life After Paralysis on August 11, 2015 # Adaptive Sports

I just won't get over it, I'm not saying can't because if I wanted to force myself I could do it, I've been able to forced myself to get over and give up stuff, just about anything that doesn't serve me as I move forward in my life, then I push it out the door. Oh, that forcing bit hasn't been without back sliding, but eventually, it's gone, never to return if I make the intention with clarity and stick to it. Just like keeping my quest for the full inclusion of all people into the global society going forever. So I say won't get over it, because I don't want to get over it, I like the feeling and for now I'm sticking with it.

What is "it" you say? Well, a big-time adapted sporting event and wanting to be there, that's what "it" is. There are only a few these big-time adapted sports events, the Paralympics, the second largest sporting event in the world, just behind number one, the Olympics (both held every four years in the same countries and venues) and there's the Parapan American Games just following the Pan American Games (again, both held every four years in the same countries and the same venues). Since 2012 it's mandatory for the hosts of the Pan American Games to also stage the Parapan American Games. The same requirement stands for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, it was realized well before 2012.

I look at these sports as one of the leaders in the global inclusion and access movement for people with disabilities. It's not perfect inclusion, yet, to be sure, but the Games are creating lasting design, sometimes using Universal Design, a design that works for all people, to create the venues that more and more are built to be sustainable. The 2015 Toronto Games are the first carbon neutral international sporting event, so it also contributes to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on Global Warming issues.

The big shift in the perspective from disability to ability, are the athletic performances. They are tweaking the brains, in a good way; of the uninformed observer with eye-opening images of capable, strong, cool people with disabilities kicking some in sports. This is something impactful the non-disabled mainstream world can relate to. As Saad Rafi CEO of TO 2015 stated in the opening ceremonies, "I'm telling you it's going to change your life, and how you not only view sport but how you view humanity, courage, participation and competition."

I'm digging in on the humanity piece of his quote. It says to me, the true universal spirit of humanity wants to include everyone into society. It just doesn't know how, because we don't know what we don't know. Sports fulfill some of the awareness education of "the not knowing" piece for non-disabled people this I believe is needed to build a bigger heart inclusion bridge in the global community. Sports contribute to this inclusion movement in a significant and substantial way.

For me, I think one of the answers to the inclusion of people with disabilities into the mainstream is the breaking down of the unfamiliar, unfounded fear based ideas about disability with "relateability". (I think I just made up a word, my spell check is freaking out, kind of what we PWD do to the world, cause them to freak out and then once they get to know us they settle down and in for the fun ride) Relateability, is the essence of connection and anything that brings people together, stories are relatable and so are sports.

I want to be at big international adapted sports competitions, I love the feelings of a twitter and twinge of wanting, first wanting to be there, drenched in expanding humanity full of possibilities that just oozes everywhere. I mean look at my face when I carried the flag into opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Paralympic Games, I'm elated. Or the beaming faces of Canadian Icons Rick Hansen and Chantal Petitclerc, two of the greatest people I know. This energy is palatable, it's real and sustainable inclusion.

And this feeling is not exclusive to athletes, of which I thought it was having been an athlete in nine Paralympic Games. I thought we were the only one's that felt the electricity of possibility. Nope, the relateability that the spectators feel is as powerfully delirious and I believe it to be a great deal more powerful for creating the change, the inclusion shift in the minds of all people. I discovered in 2012 attending the London Paralympic Games as a writer, that the spectators are in on the message of all for one and one for all immersion that needs to take place in the world.

As an athlete, the central players in the games, there is a second part to this phenomenon of sport, sort of like an actor would play a part, it's the total immersion into the event, pulling the spectators along for the ride. Oh sure there are unlimited opportunities to meet other athletes and other sporting events to witness, but it's that immersion into the immense expectation, I think it's hope really, hope of success when the great adrenalin rush takes off as the starting gun fires.

I love those feeling I spoke of above and all the possibility they offer. How those feelings of hope for success, in the current competition and now for change to create an inclusive world (of which none of the athletes are thinking of right now, we are getting this by osmosis). A hope for the willingness of non-disabled people to want to do more to make a world for everyone. Adapted sports are a part of this movement; we can catch the adrenalin, hold it and use it to our advantage for the inclusion movement.

In this moment, as much time has past since my retiring and moved forward from my last Games, I selfishly miss that strong healthy shape; the kind of shape that allows me to feel like my life is easy. Which is so opposite of how I feel, now, so uneasy, as I am still, ten weeks in, healing this fractured tibia bone.

So you might take a bit of time and tune in, the Games are happening until August 15th, because you never know, you could come away caught up in the universal language of sports and feel the feeling, how sports inclusive nature easily encourages exploration and the wanting to know more. We can drift and begin to wonder if our commonalities, can bridge the gaps of misunderstanding surrounding the nature of disability? Can they?

I believe they can with a little education heavily sprinkled with personal stories and a whole lot of collaborative solutions. You could come away with that adrenalin rush of possibility, that the mainstream of humanity, the non-disabled folks watching the 2015 Parapan American Games could truly believe that disability is just a life experience and we all have a possibility part to play in the global community.

"Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go." - William Feather

Many Blessings to All, in joy, Candace

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