Sandy Hanebrink Article

New Fitness & Sports Technology Era
Embraces People with Disabilities
by Sandy Hanebrink

reprinted from Assistive Technology News - November 2002

Sports and recreation are cornerstones of our society. People of all ages are becoming more and more involved in sports and recreation activities spawning a whole new fitness and athletic technology era. We are a society that demands precision and performance. We want things that are lighter, stronger and faster. We want the new model and we want it specialized for our specific needs. Some want it all for less and others are willing to pay a higher price.

So it is in the world of sports and recreation for people with disabilities. Assistive technology is developing and becoming abundantly available in an industry that is now driven by the end user. Products are now being designed by some of the same individuals who once dreamed of readily available products. Name the sport or activity and there is probably a specialized piece of equipment available or someone who is capable of making it. Low tech, high tech, simple modifications and adaptive equipment and/or techniques are now available throughout the community.

Finding this equipment can be as simple as going to your local department store, toy store, sporting goods store, durable medical equipment dealer or by surfing the net. Local disabled sports organizations have cropped up. For example, Disabled Sports and Recreational Programs, Inc. (DSRP), is a nonprofit organization providing sports and recreation opportunities for youth and adults with physical disabilities in South Carolina and North Carolina. DSRP’s athletes are able to benefit from discount prices on wheelchairs, handcycles and other equipment. Athletes are able to use team equipment or may benefit from using a recycled racer or basketball wheelchair from a fellow teammate. Other resources include, but are not limited to, service organizations like Easter Seals, which may have donated equipment or funding; websites like www.spinlife.com that offers discounted equipment with payment plan options; magazines like Sports’n Spokes, Palestra and New Mobility that are full of articles and ads for specialized equipment (new or used), or wheelchair warehouses that offer recycled or used equipment.

Years ago assistive technology development was driven by the medical industry. Products, manufacturers and vendors were limited. Products were developed as insurance companies would reimburse. Supply and demand dictated the price and the price was high. The disability movement and the Paralympic movement have had a major impact on this scenario. People with disabilities are in the public eye doing what they enjoy. Custom wheelchairs for basketball, quad rugby, tennis, racing, fencing, and softball are commonplace.
Recreational handcycles, cross country cycles and chairs and racing handcycles are the rave. Adapted boats, fourwheelers, hunting stands, motorcycles and race cars are out there. New, used and custom designs are available in a highly competitive industry from a variety of sources from companies such as Quickie, Invacare, TiSport, Colours and Eagle. Manufacturers have departments and design teams dedicated to sports technology development. Sports and recreation technology can also be obtained for free or for whatever price someone is willing to pay. The ultimate change in pricing has been driven by the consumers, athletes with disabilities.

Some specialized sports or recreation companies


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