BlazeSports celebrates Exceptional Children’s Week with a trio of BlazeDays in March

It has certainly been March Madness this month as the BlazeSports team visited three different schools in three counties to help them celebrate Exceptional Children’s Week.

Exceptional Children’s Week (ECW) was initiated as a means to educate the public about children with disabilities and gain support for them and special education.  Since its inception, many schools have taken advantage of ECW to awaken an understanding of the needs and capabilities of exceptional children and the programs that support them in their communities and states. Click to continue reading…

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Auti Angel Discusses Disability and Hollywood

Auti Angel. Pic from the Daily Beast.

We’ve talked before about the sadly small number of roles for actors disabilities before. Actress Auti Angel has dealt with this issue firsthand, and she wrote about her experiences in the Daily Beast this weekend. As both a Hispanic woman and a chair user, Auti has had overcome all kinds of barriers to getting roles. As a “double minority” (she uses the term “double threat”), some producers have admitted to denying her roles for essentially bringing too much diversity to the screen:

I have gone to many auditions where I didn’t land the role because I didn’t look disabled enough. “Not disabled enough? What is that supposed to mean?” I would think to myself. I remember one casting in particular where the producers were trying to choose between me and another actor with a disability. In the end, they went with the other actor because I was a double threat, Hispanic and disabled. The producers said they loved me, but they couldn’t use me in the project because I was a double minority and that they were only allowed to represent one minority at a time.

The tide may be turning, though. Auti stars in “Musical Chairs,” a romance film set in New York that takes up issues of disability and ballroom dancing. She touts the project as portraying “diverse situations in a positive light.” We’re looking forward to seeing it, and to seeing more actors like Auti appear on both the large and small screen!

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New ADA Standards for Accessible Design Are In Effect

As of March 15th, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design are in full effect. The implementation of these rules represents an extension of the spirit and the strength of the American with Disabilities Act into the realm of recreation, thereby helping to ensure that people with disabilities will have equitable access to the mental and physical benefits of an active lifestyle. Though a couple provisions regarding pools and lifts have yet to go into effect due to a misunderstanding over their requirements, all other rules are now backed by the force of law. (You can read the full text of the standards here.)

This is a big moment for everyone who supports disability rights. BlazeSports is dedicated to the notion that everyone, regardless of the presence or absence of a disability, is entitled to pursue a vigorous, physically active life. Whether through elite sport or casual recreation, we all deserve the opportunity to play. These standards represent a codification of our values of equality and accessibility, and we couldn’t be happier.

It is important to note that these changes in no way represent a rollback of the original provisions of the ADA, nor do they open the floodgates to revisions that could imperil past legislative victories. Quite the contrary. They solidify the power of the ADA by making alterations that reflect the real challenges and needs of the disability community. This is truly a step forward, not just people with disabilities but for all of us with an interest in civil rights.

BlazeSports is happy to provide technical advice and to answer questions about the new standards. Please feel free to contact our policy staff at  202-312-7419 or If you believe that facilities in your community are not in compliance, you can also contact the Department of Justice’s ADA hotline at 1-800-514-0301.

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What is Paralympic Sport?

If you’re a fan of disability sport, you’ve likely run across a situation where your talk about the Paralympics was met with a blank stare. Though the Games are becoming more prominent with each passing Paralympiad, ignorance about them still persists. Thankfully, the Australian Paralympic Committee is on the case!

Just yesterday, they uploaded a video called “What is Paralympic Sport?” to YouTube. Though its focus is on Australian athletes, it gives a breakdown of the type of disabilities represented in the Paralympics and a quick primer on classification. Plus, there is some awesome footage of Paralympians in action. It’s a great little video, and is a really useful link to send to friends who have questions about what the Paralympic Games are and how they function.

Check it out:

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Pistorius Hits Olympic Qualifying Time

Pic courtesy of Inside the Games.

I’d say the “Luck of the Irish” was with everyone’s favorite South African sprinter this St. Patrick’s Day, but we all know that luck had nothing to do with it. On March 17th, Oscar Pistorius ran the 400m in 45.20 seconds at the Provincial Championships for Gauteng North in South Africa. This time was easily below the 45.30 time needed to qualify for the Olympics. Between this and the personal best time of 45.07 he ran in Italy last year, Oscar’s Olympic dreams are almost ready to blossom into reality. He needs to clock in under the 45.30 time just once more at an international meet in order to meet South Africa’s qualification requirements. With this year’s track season just now getting under way, things are looking great. It is now highly likely that the double-amputee will race both in the individual 400m race and the 4 x 400m relay at this year’s Olympic Games in London. Barring some unforeseen disaster, he will compete in the 100m, 200m, and 400m events at the Paralympic Games as a T44 classification.

Always the class act, Pistorius took the time to thank his teammates after his latest achievement:

“I am looking forward to hopefully being confirmed by SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee) as a member of the South African Olympic team and I will do everything I can to train and prepare to the best of my ability and I would be proud to compete for my country at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“On behalf of all the team behind me, thank you so much for your continued support.”

Congrats, Oscar. We can’t wait to watch you burn past yet another barrier for athletes with disabilities.

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Egyptians with Disabilities Fight for the Right to Employment in the Face of Police Violence

As some of you might know, I spend my non-BlazeSports time as a PhD student in communications at Columbia University. This side of my life has landed me at a conference in Cairo, and thanks to the magic of the internet, I am updating the blog from just east of the Nile River. I tell you this because during my travels, I stumbled across a copy of Caravan, the American University in Cairo’s campus news paper. Its pages contain a compelling story about Egyptians with disabilities asserting their right to work.

According to a labor by-law called the “five-percent rule,” Egyptian employers are required to allocate 5% of their positions to people with disabilities. Even though this rule has been on the books for 36 years, there is no reliable mechanism to enforce it. Even if there was, the punishment for breaking it is only E£100, or less than $17. Egyptians with disabilities are choosing not to stand for this any longer. Perhaps inspired by the country’s recent revolutionary fervor, they are fighting back with protests.

On February 26th, a contingent of Egyptians with disabilities protested in Assiut Governorate in Upper Egypt. The police responded with force. Protesters were beaten and 16 were arrested on charges of inciting riots, violence against police, and blocking railroad traffic. The determination of the protesters suggest that this isn’t over, however. They want to work, and they won’t settle for the stipends that some companies offer them to stay home and to fraudulently claim five-percent compliance. Mohammed Abdel Ghaffar, for example, says, “I want to feel alive and productive. I want to go to work in the morning and return home in the afternoon as any other person.”

Keep up the fight, Mohammed. And kudos to Ahmed Fayez for his reporting of the story for Caravan.

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Western Kentucky Student Joins Disability Sport Delegation to China

Western Kentucky mascot. Pic courtesy of WKU Folklore Club.

Here comes a reminder as to why you should keep your business cards up to date and on your person at all times. Matt Davis, student and Student Disability Coordinator at Western Kentucky University, wasn’t expecting much when he dropped a card off at the Mobility International table during a conference in Seattle. Next thing he knew, though, he found a follow-up email in his inbox asking him to apply for a slot in the 2012 U.S./China Inclusive Sports and Recreation for Youth with Disabilities Professional Exchange Program. Now he’s packing his bags for Guangzhou.

Davis told WBKO about his upcoming adventure:

Last year MI brought a delegation from Guangzhou to the Eugene, Ore., area “to see how we in the U.S. organize exercise and adaptive sports programs, community programs for youth and adults with disabilities,” he said. “Now they are sending a delegation of eight of us from the U.S. to see how they provide community-based services for individuals with disabilities, what programs they have as far as getting inclusive programs for youth with disabilities and give advice and feedback based on what we do in the U.S. as to how they can start or improve programs.”

Davis seems like a great selection to help facilitate intercultural cooperation in adaptive sport. Not only is he an organizer (he’s president of the Tennessee-based disability organization the National Wheelcats) and an athlete himself. Good luck, Matt! And to the rest of participants in MI’s exchange program!

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