Disabled groups celebrate Disability Awareness Week
Leaders within the disabled community opened Disability Awareness Week on Monday with the formation of a promising partnership.
Members of the Bahamas Council for the Disabled, Bahamas Disabilities Adventures(BDA)and Florida-based organization Sportsability met with Bahamas Olympic Association(BOA)officials to discuss how the entities can work together to host Sportsability Bahamas.
Sportsability Bahamas, an event first introduced to the public last year, will replicate the Sportsability events held in cities around Florida by founder, David Jones. The event makes a wide range of sporting activities accessible to people with all kinds of disabilities.
The Bahamas event will be held in New Providence in September 2011.
“We certainly look forward to the involvement of any and all Bahamian entities…particularly those having to do with sports,”said Bahamas Disabilities Adventure founder, Jerome Thompson.
Thompson invited Jones to The Bahamas in 2009 to partner with BDA in establishing a local version of Sportsability. The group held press conferences on the event and met with the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture at that time.
BOA president, Wellington Miller, pledged support for the event on behalf of the association.
“Our business is sports, we love sports,”said Miller.”We will generate interest with our connections to the various federations.”
Jones, who also founded Florida Disabled Outdoors Association, pointed to the benefits of an event like Sportability for both people with disabilities and the community at large.
“We promote and believe that people can indeed contribute and enjoy a better life through sports and recreation,”he said.
“I know that The Bahamas is hungry for growth for people with disabilities and to provide better opportunities and we know that providing a recreation based beginning to inclusion of people with disabilities in the society will bring many benefits, not just to the individual but to your community and to your city and your country.”
Bahamian paralympian John Sands endorsed the event. Sands, one of the first Bahamian paraplegics to medal at the Paralympic Games, attended Monday’s meeting with his trainer, Tony Craig.
Sands, who now lives in Florida, said that one of the original goals of the Bahamas Association for the Physically Disabled was to create healthier bodies through sports.
“We started out in sports and what we had done in sports was it really opened the door for many physically disabled people who were looking for jobs at that time,”he said.
Davis Hawn, an American visitor who has traveled to The Bahamas with his service dog”Booster”for the past three years, was also present at the meeting. An advocate for awareness surrounding accessibility for the disabled and their service dogs, Hawn returned for Disability Awareness Week.
“Disability Awareness Week for me also means the awareness that the dogs can help a lot of people and I want to share that awareness with people, but if you can’t go into public with your dog, if a person who has seizures can’t bring a dog into the restaurant, they might choke on that steak and die,”he said.
“You need a law in place to ensure that folks with disabilities have access to the same places that people without disabilities have access to. It’s absolutely critical,”said Hawn, who envisioned a Sportsability-type event that would include activities with service dogs.
Jones expressed hopes for the success of the event, saying that the inclusive nature of Sportsability made for a great story.
“It’s a very popular media event people having fun, being successful in society with disabilities is a great story, and nowadays we need good stories. We need to improve our condition, our accessibility, our inclusion of people with disabilities and we think that we can do that with Sportsability here,”he said.