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Wheelchair Sports as Social Interaction

Key Message

In 1998,  New York HERO, Inc. reported that: ”  Social Benefits Which May Result from Wheelchair Sport Participation do exist. “” A majority of administrators in universities with wheelchair sports programs, 70%, as well as, those without such programs, 66.66%, recognized that sports activities contributed to social experiences. Their responses included friendship, integration, and social opportunity as high ranking social benefits. When it came specifically to wheelchair tennis, some administrators in both groups maintained that it offered communication, teammate interaction, and friendly competition. “”  Administrators clearly perceived sports to be an effective socializing agent for forming friendships and providing a forum for communication. Many spoke on a personal basis relating stories of friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Others saw it as a great esteem builder for those with disabilities. “

Source

Spyer, B. (1998). Wheelchair Sports as Social Interaction. Harrison, New York: HERO, Inc.

Purpose

INTRODUCTION
This paper is from the 5th International Therapeutic Recreation Symposium. This study was intended to gather information about the perceptions and responses of university administrators regarding wheelchair sports as social interaction. Recommendations for further research are included.

Theoretical Framework:
Social theorists Georg Simmel (1950), George Mead (1962), Erving Goffman (1959, 1967), and George Homans (1950, 1958,1961) sought an understanding of the distinctive character of interaction as it took place between human beings. Their theories provided the framework for explaining how wheelchair users can receive social interaction benefits through participation in wheelchair sports. This will be specifically illustrated through wheelchair tennis.

Simmers (1950) theory on the significance of numbers for social life examined combinations of interactions among individuals within small groups. Using numbers, Simmel showed how a two-person group or dyad could fulfill certain interaction qualities for its members that larger gatherings could not. For example, dyads require the expenditure of a great deal of energy to keep a relationship going, and have a direct effect on each individuals opinions and needs. Thus, in a sport such as wheelchair tennis, the significance of a two-person relationship plays an important role. Without a common agreement that each two must cooperate toward achievement of the task, the game cannot be played.

Evidence

RESULTS
The Findings
Findings to the six questions provided insights into the general concepts, specific ideas, and possible reservations that the twenty-five administrators had regarding wheelchair sports programs, specifically wheelchair tennis, as a means of promoting social interaction.

Social Benefits Which May Result from Wheelchair Sport Participation do exist.

A majority of administrators in universities with wheelchair sports programs, 70%, as well as, those without such programs, 66.66%, recognized that sports activities contributed to social experiences. Their responses included friendship, integration, and social opportunity as high ranking social benefits. When it came specifically to wheelchair tennis, some administrators in both groups maintained that it offered communication, teammate interaction, and friendly competition. Only one administrator at a university without a wheelchair sports program had not thought about the social benefits that could be derived from sports participation, and that it was not an issue ever discussed.

CONCLUSIONS
Administrators clearly perceived sports to be an effective socializing agent for forming friendships and providing a forum for communication. Many spoke on a personal basis relating stories of friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Others saw it as a great esteem builder for those with disabilities. Further, administrators clearly understood Federal mandates such as Section 504 and the ADA. They emphasized that in spite of these laws, their universities had long histories of working with minority groups, including those with disabilities. These administrators believed that their universities would always include everyone, and that everyone’s group belonged.
Administrators in universities without wheelchair programs revealed a lack of knowledge about activities for students in general, and for those with disabilities specifically. Five out of the fifteen interviewed stated that programming was not their area of responsibility. Several stated that their major concern was physical accommodations such as accessible ramps and parking spaces. While some did indicate a willingness to help in any way they could, the majority could be characterized as impersonal and insensitive toward others.
Eleven administrators did not have any knowledge nor were they certain whether a wheelchair sports program would increase liability exposure. Many, again, said that it was not their area of responsibility. Their responses demonstrated concern only with their specific obligations.

Additional Information

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Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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