My son Tom and I are new to alpine skiing. After he "retired" from hockey last year we were interested in taking up a new sport--something that was physically taxing, fun, and, from my viewpoint, would take him far away from his Xbox. When my niece, who works as a program co-ordinator for Vermont Adaptive, invited us up last winter we jumped at the chance. It turned out my son was a natural on skis. I was not so gifted and struggled for a variety of reasons foremost among them finding the correct sit ski (for a person with a high level of injury, t-3, the correct gear is very important).
This ski season has gone much better. Using a dual sit ski as opposed to a mono ski that is common I expect (hope) to be independent by the end of the season. I love the freedom and sensation of skiing. Being outside in the cold, the views from the summit, and seeing my son speeding by me are all wonderful. But I wonder what other non-disabled people really think about my efforts. In Vermont I rarely get that "Oh my gosh, you are such an inspiration" comment that I detest. Yet I remain concerned about how I am perceived. Do others understand that I am like any other parent who simply wants to spend time with their kid? This question leads me to wonder about the value of adaptive sports. Here I am not referring to events such as the Para-Olympics where the athletes are young, gifted, and driven. These men and women are professionals and should be perceived as such.
I am your typical weekend warrior--nothing more and nothing less. I am skiing to have fun like the vast majority of people. But I am not like others. I use and wheelchair and sit ski. Do people look beyond my wheelchair and sit ski and see me for who I am? I would like to think so yet I am not sure this is the case. When you add in the high cost of skiing my concerns grow exponentially. What is the point of having adaptive sport programs if 70% of disabled people are unemployed? Do not misconstrue what I am trying to get at: adaptive sport programs are great and have a place in society. It is just that on our drive back home I was pre-occupied with the gross economic and social inequities that disabled people encounter on a daily basis. Social stigma and the lack of economic independence prevent far too many disabled people from leaving their home and, for some, visiting a ski area is a pipe dream. As we approached home I broached this issue with my son who has an innate ability to reduce complex issues to their most common denominator. He remarked that I could not change the world in one weekend and that I should really be thinking about ways to improve my form so that I could keep up with him. He went on to note that what made people think the most in his estimation was little a little sign my niece put on my wheelchair while I was skiing. It stated: "Gone Skiing". He told me that as people trudged by, many stopped, thought a second or two and laughed. This, he thought, was an indication that people questioned their preconceived notions about "dudes that use a wheelchair" and that I should just enjoy myself. I hope my son is correct and will work on not only my form but on advances the rights of disabled people.
Paralyzed since I was 18 years old, I have spent much of the last 30 years thinking about the reasons why the social life of crippled people is so different from those who ambulate on two feet. After reading about the so called Ashley Treatment I decided it was time to write a book about my life as a crippled man. My book, Bad Cripple: A Protest from an Invisible Man, will be published by Counter Punch. I hope my book will completed soon.
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Thursday, January 3, 2008
Adaptive Skiing and Sports
Posted by william Peace at 6:05 AM 11 comments:
PhD 1992 in anthropology Columbia University, I am interested in disability rights and bioethics.
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