UK Sport and Cultural Exchange

BlazeSports America and UK Sport Exchange participants arrived in Washington, D.C. to kick off the BlazeSports UK Sport and Cultural Exchange project in collaboration with the US Embassy in London.    Seven young people with physical disabilities from the UK along with BlazeSports staff will participate in an incredible experience integrating the two cultures – UK and the US. The Exchange group will spend time in Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA and Montgomery, Alabama,  The purpose of the exchange is… to learn various ways to promote cultural integration between British and American citizens and civil society organizations.  This exchange will also focus on the role of disability sport in inclusion and society.

The 7 participants pose to a picture in the National Mall with the Capitol Hill as a background

The 7 participants pose to a picture in the National Mall with the Capitol Hill as a background

During their time in Washington, D.C. the members of the exchange will explore the Nation’s Capital, tour multiple American universities, participate in a disability awareness day ,and speak with various representatives, advocates, and educators of disability and inclusive sport development.

Here are a few highlights from Washington, DC: 

On the first day, the UK Sport Exchange was spent touring the beautiful city of Washington, D.C. and learning about one aspect of American culture. 

“We went into Washington, D.C. and went to famous sites like the U.S. Capital building, The White House, Abe Memorial, and the Washington Monument. It was such a great day, and I had such a laugh,” Stefan Hoggan, one of our seven participants said on Tuesday morning.

The following day, the Blaze UK Exchange group met with staff members of the United States Agency of International Development (USAID); Charlotte McCain-Mhlapo, Coordinator for Disability and Inclusive Development;Jill Moss, New Media Development and Internet Freedom Fellow; Maryanne Yerkers, Senior Civil Society Specialist, and Leah Maxson, Technical Advisor for Disability. The USAID is one of BlazeSports main funders for international sport development projects. The Exchange participants participated in a round table discussion talking about various topics, such as, the overall goal of USAID, disability rights, social media enforcement, and youth in sport development.

“It has been an incredible experience thus far, and I am looking forward to the rest of the trip. I am beyond thrilled with everything we have learned so far and can’t wait to bring new ideas to Scottish Disability Sport,” group leader, Jennifer Livingstone said.

The participants also had the opportunity to visit U.S. Department of State and Sports United to discuss topics on Sports Diplomacy

The group meets with Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) at the beautiful Georgetown University campus

The group meets with Scholarships for Education and Economic Development (SEED) at the beautiful Georgetown University campus

Initiatives. Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, Judith Huemann, facilitated a round table discussion, which gave participates the chance to discuss various policies, ask questions, and speak on behalf of their communities in Scotland.

For the remainder of the UK Sport Exchange, activities include a visit to Nationals Park, one of the most accessible MLB stadiums, a round table discussion with Maryland University government representatives, meeting with the Institute for Educational Leadership, and many other learning opportunities. 

Posted in Featured, Global Initiatives, International, News, Policy/Advocacy |

BlazeSports Celebrates Students with Disabilities Right to Play Sport


ATLANTA, GEORGIA – BlazeSports America congratulates the Obama Administration and the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, on releasing this landmark guidance to public elementary and secondary schools, and colleges clarifying their obligations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to provide extracurricular activities for students with disabilities.

This guidance is in direct response to the findings of Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report released in June 2010 Students with Disabilities, More Information and Guidance Could Improve Opportunities in Physical Education and Athletics. BlazeSports wishes to thank Senator Tom Harkin, Congressman George Miller, Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, and Congressman Chris Van Hollen for leading the request to the GAO.

BlazeSports played a lead role in securing congressional support for the GAO study and mobilizing the disability sport community behind the effort.  The Women’s Sport Foundation and US Paralympics were leading voices in the early stages of the campaign.  We also applaud the contributions of so many disability sport organizations and leaders for their early and considerable contributions over three decades.

“Today we celebrate an important milestone in advancing the rights of students with disabilities to play school sports. This guidance opens the door for the expansion of sports opportunities for students with disabilities. Tomorrow the work begins anew as we engage school officials in making extra curricular sports participation a reality for students with disabilities across the country,” reminds Ann Cody, BlazeSports Director of Policy and Global Outreach.

“BlazeSports is prepared to work with and assist schools, school districts and state departments of education and other organizations in meeting this guidance”, says Jeff Jones, Director of Sport and Community Programs. BlazeSports can assist school systems in assessing current activities and needs, train teachers, volunteers and coaches on sport rules/inclusion strategies, and equipment adaptations, and help create more opportunities for students K-12 with disabilities to participate in sport.  For more information, please contact Jeff Jones, Director of Sport and Community Programs at 404-270-2000 or


DOE New School Policy 2013

GAO Report 2010 Students with Disabilities PE



From the AP – Schools must provide sports for disabled, US says


Published: Today

In this July 28, 2012 photo provided by Lisa Followay, Casey Followay competes in the the USATF Junior Olympics in Maryland. Breaking new ground, the U.S. Education Department is telling schools Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, they must include students with disabilities in sports programs or provide equal alternative options. The directive, reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for women, could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come. “I heard about some of the other people who joined their track teams in other states. I wanted to try to do that,” said 15-year-old Casey Followay, who competes on his Ohio high school track team in a racing wheelchair. Current rules require Followay to race on his own, without competitors running alongside him. He said he hopes the Education Department guidance will change that and he can compete against runners.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Students with disabilities must be given a fair shot to play on a traditional sports team or have their own leagues, the Education Department says.

Disabled students who want to play for their school could join traditional teams if officials can make “reasonable modifications” to accommodate them. If those adjustments would fundamentally alter a sport or give the student an advantage, the department is directing the school to create parallel athletic programs that have comparable standing to traditional programs.

“Sports can provide invaluable lessons in discipline, selflessness, passion and courage, and this guidance will help schools ensure that students with disabilities have an equal opportunity to benefit from the life lessons they can learn on the playing field or on the court,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement announcing the new guidance Friday.

The groundbreaking order is reminiscent of the Title IX expansion of athletic opportunities for girls and women four decades ago and could bring sweeping changes to school budgets and locker rooms for years to come.

Activists cheered the changes.

“This is a landmark moment for students with disabilities. This will do for students with disabilities what Title IX did for women,” said Terri Lakowski, who for a decade led a coalition pushing for the changes. “This is a huge victory.”

It’s not clear whether the new guidelines will spark a sudden uptick in sports participation. There was a big increase in female participation in sports after Title IX guidance instructed schools to treat female athletics on par with male teams. That led many schools to cut some men’s teams, arguing that it was necessary to be able to pay for women’s teams.

Education Department officials emphasized they did not intend to change sports traditions dramatically or guarantee students with disabilities a spot on competitive teams. Instead, they insisted schools may not exclude students based on their disabilities if they can keep up with their classmates.

Federal laws, including the 1973 Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, require states to provide a free public education to all students and prohibit schools that receive federal money from discriminating against students with disabilities. Going further, the new directive from the Education Department’s civil rights division explicitly tells schools and colleges that access to interscholastic, intramural and intercollegiate athletics is a right.

The department suggests minor accommodations to incorporate students with disabilities onto sports teams. For instance, track and field officials could use a visual cue for a deaf runner to begin a race.

Some states already offer such programs. Maryland, for instance, passed a law in 2008 that required schools to create equal opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in physical education programs and play on traditional athletic teams. And Minnesota awards state titles for disabled student athletes in six sports.

Increasingly, those with disabilities are finding spots on their schools’ teams.

“I heard about some of the other people who joined their track teams in other states. I wanted to try to do that,” said Casey Followay, 15, of Wooster, Ohio, who competes on his high school track team in a racing wheelchair.

Current rules require Followay to race on his own, without competitors running alongside him. He said he hopes the Education Department guidance will change that and he can compete against runners.

“It’s going to give me the chance to compete against kids at my level,” he said.

Some cautioned that progress would come in fits and starts initially.

“Is it easy? No,” said Brad Hedrick, director of disability services at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and himself a hall-of-famer in the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. “In most places, you’re beginning from an inertial moment. But it is feasible and possible that a meaningful and viable programming can be created.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in News, Policy/Advocacy |


The lack of live coverage in the United States of the London 2012 Paralympic Games did not go unnoticed by persons with disabilities residing in the U.S. and abroad.  While social media was buzzing with criticisms of the lack of planned live TV coverage in the U.S. leading up to and during the Games, not much has been said since.  The Inclusive Sport Initiative at the Institute of Human Centered Design is looking to make sure the general population has the opportunity to witness the athleticism of persons with disability through their #HOWCOOLISTHAT initiative.

The power of the mainstream media cannot be underestimated and it is the hope that the outcome of this campaign will be mainstream media coverage of  major disability sporting events throughout the world.  For more on the initiative please visit their website and social media outlets with the links below.



(Boston, MA, December 10, 2012)

The Inclusive Sport Initiative at the Institute of Human Centered Design is pleased to announce a new social media campaign, #HOWCOOLISTHAT

This campaign will use social media to address mainstream media coverage of disability sports in the United States and worldwide.

The most watched Paralympic Games in the History, London 2012, was broadcast to 3.8 billion people in over 115 countries. The USA, one of the biggest sporting nations in the world and sixth most successful country in the London 2012 Paralympics, didn’t have any live broadcast of any of London 2012 events. This made us think about the leadership position of the United States and all countries in ensuring the visibility of athletes with disabilities. (bold added)

Mainstream media has shown its power in helping create role models, change perceptions of people with disabilities and inspiring other to take part in sports.

The goal of our campaign is to capture videos and pictures of people’s reactions, feelings and thoughts as they watch disability sport videos.

Our aim is to increase awareness about disability sports as part of mainstream sports coverage. By showing and sharing highlights of disability sports, we would like to encourage everyone to share their feelings, thoughts and reactions on social media using #HOWCOOLISTHAT

We are hoping that it will open the dialogue and debate around the coverage of international championships, national competitions and other disability sports event by mainstream media.

Today is the United Nations international Human Right Day. This year’s focus is “Inclusion and the rights to participate in public life.” We chose this date as a symbolic day to launch our campaign.

Through this campaign, we are hoping to help and support all stakeholders working towards the development of a fully inclusive society where everyone has equal right of participation in play, work and any other societal activities.

Full visibility and access to participation in sport for people with disabilities shouldn’t be a dream: #HOWCOOLISTHAT will make it happen.


Aurélie Pankowiak – Inclusive Sports Initiative

Phone: 617-803-8148
Twitter: @disinsport


Posted in Blog, Policy/Advocacy |

Ann Cody Honored by the United States Olympic Foundation


United States Olympic Foundation honors three individuals for contributions to Olympic and Paralympic Movements

NEW YORK – The United States Olympic Foundation today presented three awards at the annual USOF Luncheon and Awards Ceremony in New York City. Ann Cody, Pat Summitt and Peter V. Ueberroth were honored in recognition of their commitment and contributions to the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.

The USOF was established after the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles to benefit Olympic, Paralympic and amateur sports in the United States. A nonprofit organization, its objective is to support the United States Olympic Committee and its member organizations. A separate entity from the USOC, the USOF oversees the corpus of endowed funds that resulted from the surplus from the 1984 Games.

Summitt, the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history, and Cody, a pioneer in the Paralympic sports movement, each received the George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award. The award is presented annually by the USOF to honor outstanding members of the Olympic and Paralympic family who have contributed to sport through management, sport organization endeavors or the enhancement of competitive opportunities, and who have displayed qualities of leadership, ethical conduct and dedicated responsibility during a longstanding commitment to sport.

Ueberroth, former USOC chairman and MLB commissioner, received the William E. Simon Award, given by the USOF to individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Simon – the award’s namesake – was president of the USOC from 1981-85 and served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury for three years under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

About the award recipients

Ann Cody

Cody has been a tireless advocate for the Paralympic Movement. Through her leadership, the International Paralympic Committee established a policy on gender equity and implemented critical initiatives aimed at increasing participation by women in Paralympic sport. Cody serves on the IPC’s Governing Board and is the highest-ranking American and highest-ranking woman in the IPC. She is also a member of the International Olympic Committee 2018 Evaluation Commission and the USOC’s Paralympic Advisory Committee. Cody is a Paralympic gold medalist in track & field and competed on three U.S. Paralympic Teams (basketball, 1984; track & field, 1988, 1992).

Pat Summitt

Summitt is the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history. She coached the Tennessee Lady Vols from 1974-2012, winning eight national championships and 32 combined Southeastern Conference titles. Summit ended her career at the helm of the UT women’s basketball team with a 1,098-208 overall record. She brought that same standard of excellence to USA Basketball. As a player, she earned a spot on the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team, serving as co-captain and leading the team to the silver medal. As a coach, she guided the U.S. women to silver in 1983 and gold in 1984. Summitt was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

Peter V. Ueberroth

Ueberroth has been an Olympic force for more than three decades. He initially made his mark as the president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee from 1980-84. Under his leadership, the first privately funded Olympic Games resulted in a surplus of $238 million, which continues to support youth sports across the United States. He was elected as the first chair of the restructured USOC board of directors in June of 2004. In 2008, the USOC elected Ueberroth honorary president for a two-year term. Ueberroth’s Olympic accomplishments are reflected in numerous awards, including being named 1984 Man of the Year by both Time Magazine and The Sporting News and receiving the Olympic Order in Gold from the IOC at the culmination of the Los Angeles Olympic Games. Ueberroth served as MLB commissioner from 1984-89, and his 1985 book, Made in America, was a bestseller.

Winners of the George M. Steinbrenner III Sport Leadership Award:

2012 Ann Cody and Pat Summitt

2011 Thomas W. Weisel

2010 Tom Gompf

2009 Carol Zaleski

2008 Kirk Bauer

2007 Alan Rothenberg

2006 Walter L. Bush Jr.

Winners of the William E. Simon Award:

2012 Peter V. Ueberroth

2011 Henry A. Kissinger

2010 Daniel L. Doctoroff and Patrick G. Ryan


Josie Burke

(719) 433-3571

Posted in News, Policy/Advocacy, USOC |

Human Rights Day 2012


Monday, December 10th is Human Rights Day.


Human Rights Day presents an opportunity, every year, to celebrate human rights, highlight a specific issue, and advocate for the full enjoyment of all human rights by everyone everywhere.

This year, the spotlight is on the rights of all people — women, youth, minorities, persons with disabilities, indigenous people, the poor and marginalized — to make their voices heard in public life and be included in political decision-making.

These human rights — the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, to peaceful assembly and association, and to take part in government (articles 19, 20 and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) have been at the centre of the historic changes in the Arab world over the past two years, in which millions have taken to the streets to demand change. In other parts of the world, the “99%” made their voices heard through the global Occupy movement protesting economic, political and social inequality.

Make your voice count!

Share your thoughts about the right to participate in public life and political decision-making, using #VoiceCount.

Take part in a series of four Goolge+ Hangouts between 22 November and 10 December to engage with senior UN officials and leading experts on the rights of minorities, persons with disabilities, the impact of business on human rights, and beyond.

And, starting on 1 December, send us your questions using#AskRights. Selected questions will be answered by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, at a Human Rights Day Google+ Hangout.

Stay tuned for more information.

Posted in International, News, Policy/Advocacy |

International Day of Persons with Disabilities


Monday, December 3rd is the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  The theme for 2012 is Removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all.  According to the U.N. website, persons with disabilities are “the world’s largest minority”, with over one billion people, or approximately 15 per cent of the world’s population, living with some form of disability.

Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recognizes that the existence of barriers constitutes a central component of disability. Under the Convention, disability is an evolving concept that “results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”

Accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities are fundamental rights recognized by the CRPD and are not only objectives, but also pre-requisites for the enjoyment of other rights. The CRPD (Article 9, accessibility) seeks to enable persons with disabilities to live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life and development. It calls upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to all aspects of society, on an equal basis with others, as well as to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers to accessibility.

In spite of this, in many parts of the world today, lack of awareness and understanding of accessibility as a cross-cutting development issue remains an obstacle to the achievement of progress and development through the Millennium Development Goals, as well as other internationally agreed outcomes for all.

The commemoration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities in 2012 provides an opportunity to address this exclusion by focusing on promoting accessibility and removing all types of barriers in society.

Visit United Nations Enable for more information on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).


Posted in Blog, Featured, International, Policy/Advocacy |