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Pandemic delays recreational sports collaborative for people with disabilities

Dec 14, 2020

Western New York Adaptive Inclusice Sport Collaborative formed this year.
Credit Accessible Adventures

The coronavirus pandemic has delayed plans for a partnership to provide recreational sports opportunities for people with disabilities in western New York.

In March, Rochester Accessible Adventures partnered with Greater Buffalo Adaptive Sports to form the Western New York Adaptive Inclusion Collaborative. The goal of the collaborative is to develop a regional adaptive and inclusive sports system.

Anita O'Brien, the executive director of Rochester Accessible Adventures, said people with disabilities can have limited activity options and often have to travel long distances to participate.

“Lacrosse, soccer, baseball, and basketball exist in the adaptive sports world as well," said O’Brien. “It’s just that you have to be in the right town to happen to come across the one you might be interested in.”

The organizations announced their partnership in March, just days before the state shutdown. O’Brien said they were able to offer some modified activities this summer, but many of their participants have compromised immune systems, which made some families hesitant.

“For years this was a person’s fear of trying something new with their disability,” said O’Brien. “Now they were finally thinking about going to do it, but COVID fear stepped them back.”

She said the lack of access to physical and social activities that everyone has experienced during the pandemic has been a reality for people with disabilities for years.

“It’s startling to see it being realized on a global scale just how detrimental it is to not have access to the things that we were doing that we felt kept us active and socially engaged,” said O’Brien.

Many of the collaborative's programs are on hold for now. In the meantime, Rochester Accessible Adventures has been engaging participants with virtual activities and is offering free online inclusion training through its campaign and hashtag #WeWillInclude.

This story was produced by WXXI's Inclusion Desk, focusing on disabilities and inclusion.