Celebrate Ability Week showcases abilities of students with disabilities

Events will include a presentation from TLC’s Matt Roloff.
Cait Campbell / Graphic Designer

With one hand on a wheel and the other on the ball, MU Wheelchair Basketball player Ben Mayforth demonstrated how to dribble in wheelchair basketball at the sport's open house Monday.

After passing the ball to a student trying the sport for the first time, he added one last tip.

"Just have fun with it," Mayforth said. "But if you fall, keep your chin to your chest."

Along with an adaptive golf demonstration, the MU Wheelchair Basketball open house kicked off Celebrate Ability Week, which will feature on-campus events through Friday.

Opening day events also included a free screening at Ragtag Cinema of “Lives Worth Living,” a film that traces the development of disability rights, according to Ragtag Cinema’s website.

"What Celebrate Ability Week is all about is just showing what the abilities of persons with disabilities are," MU Wheelchair Basketball coach Ron Lykins said. "Too often people think, 'You can't do this, you can't do that.' This is to show what people can do."

This will mark Celebrate Ability Week's third year. Student involvement has grown since the tradition began in 2010, said Jerry Hitzhusen, an associate professor in the parks, recreation and tourism department. Hitzhusen teaches a leisure and disability class and helped with the adaptive golf demonstration.

The demonstration allowed students to experience how people with disabilities can play golf independently, golf instructor and consultant Dany Baker said. Using adaptive equipment, coaches or golf carts, people with disabilities don't have to give up their love of the sport, Baker said.

"It provides awareness first of all and helping educate these young students so when they go back to their hometowns to let people know that stuff like this exists for people with challenges (or) certain types of disabilities," Baker said. "We all in some way have some kind of physical challenge in one way or another."

Baker instructed students how to hit, chip and putt from a wheelchair.

"I like to golf, so it's nice to come here and learn how people with disabilities can golf, like what they have to do to get around the course and how they have to hit it," senior Ryan Howerton said. “It gives you perspectives on (how) disabled people have to operate."

After Baker finished adaptive golf demonstrations, Lykins joined the court with several MU wheelchair basketball players to teach students how to play wheelchair basketball. Students sat in wheelchairs as players gave them pointers about shooting and simultaneously dribbling and moving.

"I really like the open house and Celebrate Ability Week because it shows people without disabilities that wheelchair basketball and other disabled sports are actual sports," Mayforth said. "It shows that that we actually put a lot of time into it, and it takes a lot of athletic ability to just be able to do it. We're just regular people just trying to play some ball."

Allowing students to experience wheelchair basketball firsthand at the open house can inspire some to watch games, Lykins said.

Celebrate Ability Week will continue with other events throughout the week including a presentation and book signing by Matt Roloff from TLC’s "Little People Big World" on Tuesday and a wheelchair obstacle course Friday.

"These events are really cool because students get to try other sports," MU Wheelchair Basketball player Dustin Casey said. "It shows people that we can still go out and be active, and recreation is just as important to us as it is to anybody else. People are surprised when they come watch. It's very physical."

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