Dealing with ableism in disability sports

As background I have been playing power soccer for more than two decades and was the team representative for my team, the BORP Bay Earthquakes for a number of years. I am very familiar with how to play the sport and I know the politics behind being in the sport I am in.

At the start of this season I was very excited about our chances to have a good standing at this year’s national cup. However as soon as we started playing the games at the tournament I new we were in trouble. Last year the team Minnesota Magic came with their Strike Force Power Wheelchairs from Power Soccer Shop and blew everyone away winning every game easily. This year when we went to the Premier Cup this year almost every team in the tournament had those chairs. Our confidence soon evaporated as soon we got on court with our game. On a first game CNY United from New York we got decimated. This trend kept repeating for the next for games. The performance of the whole team was a debacle, we were totally embarrassed. Although my teammates and I were going through our separate issues I place  most of our blame not being able to play against the Strike Force Power Wheelchairs.

Adjusting playing to these Strike Force Power Wheelchairs was not as easy as we originally planned. These chairs were built to have an unnecessary long frame with casters extended in front of the wheels. This allows the designers of the chairs to build an extended foot guard in front of the chair.  The end result being that the Strike Force Chair has a stronger kick on the ball and better maneuverability then any other chair on the market. What ends up happening is the team with the Strike Force Power Wheelchairs and relatively good power soccer skills will beat a team with any other power wheelchair. Also since the Strike Force Wheelchairs are sold at Powersoccershop.com for over $7000 means that only those that can afford this chair will be able to compete in this sport at a high level. Since the Strike Force Power Wheelchair is constructed as an expensive “go kart” only for use on the court and not for daily use means that unfortunately not many medical insurance companies will approve co-payment for these extra chairs. Since until now people were using their daily chairs to pay power soccer it will cause another burden to purchase the Strike Force Power Wheelchair just to play the sport of power soccer. Many people with disabilities have limited incomes and the chair that the medical insurance company purchase for them is the only one that they will have. This will exclude many people from playing the sport as a high level because of affordability, which goes against the spirit of the sport that was suppose to be for people with severe disabilities to have a sport that they excel in using their own power wheelchairs.

As I leave the sport that I truly love and spent two decades playing I hope power soccer will not turn into a sport that excludes people on physical ability and income. I hope the sport still attract people that take a chance on trying out a new sport that they might excel in irregardless of their disability or the wheelchair he or she is in. That is the power soccer I fell in love with.

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