“Disability is not a ‘brave struggle’ or ‘courage in the face of adversity.’ Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.” ~Neil Marcus
A variety of adaptive sports facilities, athletic teams, and recreational sporting opportunities are available for Arizona residents with disabilities and special needs who are unable to participate in regular sports programs.
1. Special Olympics Arizona (statewide) – The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics is often the only place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities, developing confidence and self-esteem.
2. Mesa Association of Sports for the Disabled (Mesa) – MASD is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to providing sports and recreation opportunities to individuals with all types of disability. This could include but is not limited to developmental disabilities, orthopedic impairment, sensory deficit and/or neurological involvement. Because of the unique nature of the programs offered by MASD, participants in MASD’s weekly sports programs travel to Mesa from throughout the metropolitan Phoenix area and from around the state. For this reason among others, the organization began doing business as Arizona Disabled Sports in 2007.
3. Kids Enjoy Exercise Now (Phoenix) – KEEN is a nonprofit volunteer-led organization that provides one-to-one recreational opportunities for children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities at no cost to their families and caregivers. KEEN provides an open, unstructured environment for people with any type of disability including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and various intellectual and developmental disabilities. KEEN’s mission is to foster the self-esteem, confidence, skills and talents of its program participants through non-competitive activities, allowing young people facing even the most significant challenges to meet their individual goals – even if it’s simply being able to throw or kick a ball. All of KEEN’s programs are based on a single principle: pair a trained volunteer with an athlete and let them discover together how much they can do. KEEN’s sports, swim, and special programs are held at the Gompers Habilitation Center in Phoenix.
4. University of Arizona Disabled Sports (Tucson) – All of the University of Arizona’s adaptive athletic programs are open to both students and community members. Students are automatically eligible based on skill qualification for each sport. Community members are eligible through the Adaptive Fitness Program, which allows participation in all sports and fitness activities with payment of an annual fee.
5. Arizona Sunrays (Phoenix) – This gymnastics, dance and cheer studio in northeast Phoenix has expanded its reach with a program launched in January 2011 that is tailored for kids with disabilities. Some instructors offer individual lessons, while other students are enrolled in group classes. One of the program coordinators is Pam Evans, who also teaches physical education to children with special needs in the Scottsdale Unified School District. Click here to read more.
6. Grand Canyon State Fencing Foundation (Tempe) – Fencing is recognized to be a sport that not only exercises a multitude of muscles and is cardiovascular but also develops mental agility. It is therefore a sport that is highly beneficial to athletes confined to wheelchairs. The Foundation is developing a program of Wheelchair Fencing to bring this exciting sport to disabled athletes.
7. Adaptive Karting (Tucson) – Musselman Honda Circuit is one of the newest multi-use motorsport facilities in the U.S. The track is a replica of the world famous Suzuka South Kart Circuit in Suzuka, Japan, known by professional kart racers as the best kart circuit in the world. Believing that no one should be denied the thrill of karting, Musselman Honda Circuit offers three modified hand control karts for use by anyone who wants to get out and do some laps, but happens to be paraplegic.
8. Wheelchair Accessible Trap/Skeet Field (Phoenix) – Attention shooters who use mobility aids! A new combination trap and skeet field specifically designed to accommodate shooters who use a mobility aid is now open. The unique, fully paved design of this field allows for much easier access and maneuverability than traditional sidewalk-style fields found at most clay target facilities. In addition, there is a large covered awning, as well as an accommodating portable restroom. Standard colored concrete was used to fill in the field area and all the regulation lanes and shooting stations were done in an accenting color dyed concrete. Red concrete represents the trap lanes, while maroon concrete was used to indicate the skeet stations. The end result is a very smooth surface that is very easy for wheelchairs and other mobility aids to use. The colored lanes and shooting stations clearly identify where to shoot from. The new field is not just restricted to shooters using wheelchairs. It is a multi-use field for all patrons. The Ben Avery Shooting Facility also hosts the annual NRA Open Range Day, a program offered by the National Rifle Association’s Disabled Shooting Services. The event is designed to introduce people with disabilities to the various sports involving firearms.
9. Arizona Disabled Scuba Divers Foundation (Tempe) – This 501(3)c charity was founded in early 2009 by a group of divers who wanted to meet the needs of disabled divers. Scuba offers a therapeutic environment for many types of disabilities. The weightlessness of water creates a neutral environment for unrestricted mobility. By providing an unparalleled environment, rehabilitation specialists can work with individuals on their specific needs ranging from strength building to manipulated movements. To dive safely, all disabled divers work with buddies during training and open water dives. All instructors are trained and certified by the Handicapped Scuba Association to work with any level of disability. Scuba Magic of Tempe, Arizona, provides the facilities and equipment.
10. Fishing Has No Boundaries Arizona (Tempe) – Fishing Has No Boundaries®, Inc. is an educational, non-profit, volunteer organization whose purpose is to open the great outdoors to all disabled persons through the world of fishing. It introduces educational devices to aid the disabled angler and creates an atmosphere of friendship and camaraderie via people-helping-people annual fishing events. The Arizona chapter also has a unique outreach program in which they take disabled individuals, along with family members, out for a one-on-one fishing adventure. Any disabled person is eligible to participate in an event, regardless of disability. There are absolutely no restrictions as to type of disability, age, race, gender, state of residence, or any other factors. All are welcome. However, most events have a maximum number of participants due to limited space and the number of volunteers. Fishing Has No Boundaries and its volunteers provide the equipment, including the use of nearly two dozen pontoon boats and specialized ramps. The Arizona chapter events take place at Lake Pleasant. For more information, write FHNB, AZ Chapter , 1416 E. Coronado Dr., Tempe, AZ 85282, or call Don Price at (480) 784-4096.