Disability Wasn’t Inability for These Presidents!

Franklin Roosevelt in a wheelchair. Pic courtesy of the World War II Diaries.

Happy Presidents Day, all! While we reflect on the accomplishments (and foibles) of the 43 men who have held the Office of the President of the United States, it’s important to remember that not all of them would meet the definition of “able-bodied.” However, their disabilities did not prevent them from serving their country at the highest level possible. The Ability Center of Greater Toledo has posted a list of presidents who had disabilities during their tenure in the Oval Office. Though the list is heavy on learning disabilities (who knew Woodrow Wilson was dyslexic?), individuals with physical disabilities are also more numerous than I expected.

Some we all know about today, like Franklin Roosevelt’s polio and chair-use (see the picture above). BlazeSports honors President Roosevelt’s memory with our Roosevelt Games for servicemen and women held in Warm Springs, Georgia. However, a few presidential disabilities are less well-known. It might be news to you, for example, that both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan had hearing impairments, or that JFK faced chronic pain. The whole list is worth a look. While most presidents with disabilities went to great lengths to hide them (the stories of FDR enduring excruciating pain to walk in leg braces are particularly wrenching), but I am looking forward to a day when we have our first openly disabled president. Being in a chair didn’t stop Roosevelt from winning World War II, so why shouldn’t kids with disabilities aspire to big dreams?

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Beloved BlazeSports Board Member Randy Snow to be Inducted into International Tennis Hall of Fame

Pic courtesy of Rehab Management.

We are proud and pleased to learn that Randy Snow, a cherished member of the BlazeSports family, will be amongst the Class of 2012 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Randy served as a Board Member for BlazeSports America until his untimely passing in 2009 at the age of 50. He was also an icon in the world of wheelchair tennis. This honor will make him only the second wheelchair tennis player to join the Hall of Fame. The first–sport pioneer Brad Parks–spoke to The Sports Campus about Randy:

“Randy Snow was simply the best wheelchair player to have ever played the sport. Beyond his athletic success though, he played a major role in building the sport and he inspired so many others to play wheelchair tennis and other sports. […] It was a privilege for me to play alongside Randy and to call him a friend, and I am thrilled to see him receive the honor of Hall of Fame induction, which is very well deserved.”

All of us at BlazeSports miss Randy dearly. He was a leader, a trailblazer, and a profoundly decent human being. It was his grace and goodness that inspired us to create the S-Now Curriculum for our Leadership Academy shortly after he passed away in order to ensure that another generation of youth with disabilities could be inspired by the message of empowerment that Randy embodied. Ricky Played, the first volume in the BlazeSports Children’s Book Series from TorchRunner Press, was also dedicated to the memory of Randy Snow.

Though our hearts overflowing with pride, we can’t say that we’re terribly surprised. A person as wonderful as Randy is difficult to ignore for too long.

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Come see us at the EXPO!


Date: February 15, 2012

BlazeSports America Presents Adaptive Sports Demonstrations at Abilities Expo

 February 17-19, 2012         Atlanta, GA

Contact: Jeff Jones at jjones@blazesports.org ; 404-270-2036

BlazeSports America invites you to participate in series of disability sports demonstrations at the Abilities Expo, the nation’s largest event for individuals with disabilities and caregivers. Between Friday, February 17 and Sunday, February 19, 2012, an estimated three thousand visitors—people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, seniors, wounded veterans, and healthcare professionals—will arrive at the Georgia World Congress Center to take part in the Abilities Expo. Admission is free and show hours are Friday 11 am to 5 pm, Saturday 11 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 11 am to 4 pm.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) indicates that more than 54 million Americans (one in five) have a disability and, of those, 35 million reported their disability as severe. Physical activity has numerous benefits for—and may be enjoyed by—all individuals, including and especially individuals with disabilities. In addition to keeping fit, active children with and without disabilities are more likely to thrive academically, socially, and psychologically. Active adults have lower rates of obesity, secondary health risks, and depression than their less active counterparts.

During the Expo, BlazeSports America’s experts and athletes with disabilities will be offering the following four adaptive sports demonstrations:

Friday, February 17, 2012:

12:00pm – 12:30pm  Wheelchair Basketball

2:45pm – 3:15pm        Boccia

Saturday, February 18, 2012:

12:30pm – 1:00pm  Track and Road Racing

1:15pm – 1:45pm      Goal Ball and Beep Baseball

BlazeSports invites all individuals interested in learning more about adaptive sports to join us for the demonstrations. Athletes and staff will be on hand to demonstrate techniques, skills, and equipment for each sport. For the full schedule of adaptive sports demonstrations, please visit: http://www.abilitiesexpo.com/atlanta/pavilions_adaptive.html

About BlazeSports America

BlazeSports America, a national non-profit organization, is the direct legacy organization of the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games. Driven by a desire to provide all children and adults with physical disabilities the chance to play sports and live healthy, active lives, BlazeSports is dedicated to offering programs, education and tools worldwide. BlazeSports provides athletes with training, support and the opportunity to increase independence and improve health. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just want to learn a new sport, see what BlazeSports has to offer. BlazeSports is also honored to be one of ten national organizations funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative. Through this project, BlazeSports helps communities implement solid prevention policies that will help residents live longer, healthier lives.

About the Abilities Expo

For more than three decades, Abilities Expo has succeeded in improving the lives of Americans with disabilities, their families, caregivers and healthcare professionals. This unique forum features three days of cutting-edge products and services, compelling workshops, fun-for-the-whole-family activities and has become the leading event for the community of people with disabilities (PWDs). More information on the Expo is available online at: http://www.abilitiesexpo.com/atlanta/v.html


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A Valentine’s Day Reminder to Tend to Your Heart

Pic courtesy of How to Draw.

It’s Valentine’s Day, folks, so I’m sure your mind is turning to romance, flowers, candy, and, of course, hearts. So in honor the most cardiac-centric of holidays, we’d like to take this opportunity to offer up some facts on heart health and disability.

  • Heart disease and stroke are “among the leading causes of disability in the United States, with more than 3 million people reporting disability from these causes.”
  • People with disabilities are more susceptible to preventable secondary health conditions–conditions like heart disease (Capriotti 2006). While this area of research is underinvestigated, individuals with disabilities need to be particularly attuned to maintaining healthy lifestyles.
  • The most common form of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD can result in heart attacks, but you can reduce your risk of acquiring it in the first place through leading a healthy lifestyle (getting enough exercise, maintaining a proper weight, etc.) and, if required, taking the necessary medications.
  • For more information on how people with disabilities can maintain a healthy lifestyle and thus combat problems like heart disease, check out our newly updated BlazeSports Active for Life Guide [PDF].

So enjoy your Valentine’s Day, but remember, the better you take care of your heart, the more time you’ll have to spend with the person who makes it beat faster!

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There’s Still Time to Be a Torch Bearer for the London Games

This could be you! Pic courtesy of the IPC.

The 2012 Paralympic Games in London are getting ever closer (I think we’re under 200 days now). However, it’s not too late to participate in the Paralympic Torch Relay that will culminate with the lighting of the cauldron at Olympic Stadium and the dawn of the 14th Paralympiad. Fifteen spots are still up for grabs, with five going to the “most deserving members of the public” and ten to past Paralympians.

Members of the public must fit into at least one of these (pretty vague) categories:

-Inspiring grassroots coach
-Inspiring family member
-Biggest inspiration
-Loyal supporter
-Future Paralympian

If you want to nominate someone, you’ll need to compose a 300-word statement of support (requirements for submission are here).

As for former Paralympians, all you need to do is join this Facebook group. All members will be entered into a draw for one of the ten reserved slots. (Don’t bother trying, non-Paralympians. You have to request to join the group and the IPC checks its records.)

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Brush Up On Your Knowledge of Paralympic Sports

Courtesy of London2012.com.

In the four years since Beijing, a lot of us have probably forgotten some of the details of our favorite Paralympic summer sports. (Not that there aren’t competitions going on all the time, but still…) For those of us who want to review the details–or who want to learn them for the first time–the London 2012 website has created a handy guide to each of the sports. Just click on the sport you’re interested in and you’ll be provided with key facts, the basics rules, the date and location of the Paralympic competitions, and more. They’ve even assembled some fun facts. Did you know, for instance, that the word “boccia” is derived from “bottia,” the Latin word for ball?

The site is a great refresher course for those of us who’ve long followed disability sport and an excellent primer for folks who are new to the Paralympic family.

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New York Times Discusses Employment of People with Disabilities

Peggy Klaus recently gave a lecture at the University of California – Berkeley. As a consultant on leadership and communication, she’s given many lectures in her day, but this was the first time the audience was to be made up of persons with disabilities. The lecture was organized by Berkeley’s Disability Studies program, and like many Americans, the prospect of saying something “wrong” or appearing insensitive left her feeling nervous.

As she details in an article for the New York Times, Klaus turned to Paul Hippolitus, the program’s director and veteran of the Office of Disability Employment Policy of the US Department of Labor. He reassured her that these concerns are all too common. The discomfort that surrounds disability is part of the reason why Americans with disabilities have an employment rate of only 17.9%, this more than two decades after the ADA. But rather than wait for society to change, Hippolitus teaches his students strategies for taking the issue into their own hands:

He refuses to watch these talented students give up on careers. He is betting that with the proper tools, they can bring about the change themselves. He has just started teaching a course, called Professional Development and Disability, that focuses not only on the principles and practices of disability employment but also on strategies for navigating the world of work.

Clearly, and especially in this economy, there’s a challenge ahead for these students. For them, as with everyone else, nailing the interview is often crucial to getting the job.

Employers are prohibited by law from asking about an applicant’s disability. But if the disability is visible, that won’t stop them from having concerns. The applicants themselves are under no such restriction, and may find it best to address employers’ potential reservations head-on — a topic that is addressed in the course. This not only serves to pop that awkward thought balloon, but it also opens an opportunity to talk about the skills required to manage a disability, like strategic planning and time management.

Like Hippolitus, BlazeSports is committed to improving employment prospects for young people with disabilities. As part of our First Work Initiative, we are giving young people with disabilities employment-centered training and hands-on job experience. By helping youth discover their talents and develop the skills that will help them successfully enter the job market, we are helping them pave the way to fulfilling careers.

For more information on First Work (or any other BlazeSports program) please call our offices at 404-270-2000.

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