Monday, October 28, 2013

#S4SC in Review: Eli Wolff

Eli Wolff, Program Director of the Sport and Development Project at Brown University, spoke at the Sport for Social Change about the topic of access and inclusion for all athletes but specifically athletes with disabilities.  His presentation had three major parts. The first part that he spoke about was how he had his earliest advocacy movement.  When Eli Wolff was in elementary school he had a Physical Education teacher that would not let him do pull ups on the bar like the rest of the class.  He keep asking to do it until one day he had enough and in the cleaner version said “Screw you I can do this.” 
Photo via Kevin Rossi

This moment is when Eli learned that sport is a place to be valued.  “Sport has a huge value on who you are and who you become because of inclusion.”  He also stressed that we do not need to separate athletes with disabilities from abled bodied athletes.  “We don’t have to have separate worlds for people with disabilities are part of the fabric of sports culture.”  Playing sports can be essential to development and to learning different values in life.  

The second part of his presentation was about how he is working to helping to create inclusion at the college level.  There are only two schools across the country that has programs for student athletes with disabilities.  Eli mentioned that there is no athletic director on any NCAA level that has a disability.  One of the biggest quotes that Eli was pushing was “Nothing about us without us” and this goes along with my previous statement.  “It is hard to make changes with no one in the offices.” 

“Inclusion is the final stage of integration of people with disabilities in a sport competition or organization in which they are involved, accepted, and respected at all levels of the competition or organization.”  Eli said that inclusion happens in three stages, Invisibility, Visibility, and finally Invisibility.  The first invisibility is that you do notice the person.  They are there but you either chose to ignore them or do not notice they are there.  Visibility happens when you begin to talk with them and becomes friends with the person.  This friendship leads to the final invisibility which is you no longer notice that the person has a disability.  You become so close with them that you forget that they have a disability. 

Finally, Eli spoke about the Olympic movement.  He spoke about the Olympics and Paralympics becoming more inclusive.  The Paralympics do not use the same symbol as the Olympics.  Since they do not use the rings after the Olympics are over they tear down all of the promotional material and replace it with the materials for the Paralympics.  This takes a few weeks and costs about 20 million dollars.  He hopes that one day these two events will not be seen as two different ones but one combined event.  He ended with showing us the #onemovement. 
In conclusion, Eli is a big advocate for inclusion and has done so much already for his cause.  There is still plenty more work that needs to be done.  If anyone reading this was unable to attend, I recommend that you look up the archive link and watch his presentation.  You will definitely enjoy it and learn a lot about athletes with disabilities and their fight for inclusion.

Recap written by Greg Monforte

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