University of Missouri and US Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball coach Ron Lykins believes Friday’s Wheelchair Relay has given students a better understanding of what it’s like to be disabled.
The 17th Annual Wheelchair Relay, which took place at the university’s recreation center, aims to raise awareness of disabilities through fun competition.
Participants paid to enter as teams and were put through a series of sporting and everyday challenges, from shooting hoops to changing clothes, all while sitting in a wheelchair.
The Relay was supported by the Mizzou wheelchair basketball team and Coach Lykins, who also led the US men’s wheelchair basketball team at the Rio Paralympics last summer.
“I think people have a better appreciation now of what it’s like to be in a chair,” Lykins said. “There are things we take for granted, such as going to a grocery store. What happens when your item is on the top shelf and you can't reach it? You start realizing what some of the architectural barriers are that are out there.”
Carmen Abbott is a professor at the university’s department for physical therapy and was responsible for coordinating the event.
“This was an experiential event,” she said. “Participants are put through a series of stations where they experience different situations that they will have to experience as someone with a disability, such as sign language, how to get dressed and how to carry things while they're in a wheelchair.”
10 teams of between five or six people took part in the relay. For many, such as Blake, who is a student at MU, this was the first time that they had experienced being in a wheelchair.
“It gives me a lot of respect for the activities that they do especially enabling them to do sports like this,” he said. “It’s definitely a challenge and I think it's a great event to participate in and overcome these challenges whilst having fun.”
Proceeds from the event will go toward supporting the wheelchair basketball team scholarship fund, which helps athletes pay for school while they compete for Mizzou.