Eli Wolff, Sport and Development, Brown University on: Access and Inclusion in Sport
First off, I would like to say this was my favorite speaker of the day. Not to take away from the other speakers, because they were all fantastic, I just feel as if this one really hit home with everyone in the conference.
At two years old Eli Wolff had a stroke, but that didn’t keep him from being a player on the Brown University Varsity soccer team. Eli also went on to compete for the U.S. National team in the 1996 and 2004 Paralympic Games.
Wolff opened his presentation with a story about how his elementary school gym teacher wouldn’t allow him to participate in using the pull-up bar like the other kids. Eli replied (Editor’s Note: words bleeped for this article) “&^$% you! ^%&^ you I can do this!” which isn’t the language a elementary student should be using. After a talk with the principal, Eli prevailed and showed he could be just like all the other children. Eli said disabled athletes want to achieve what they want regardless of their disability.
Eli was also a big part of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, or CRPD. He spoke about the CRPD’s mantra “Nothing About Us Without Us!” and how to shape programs for disabled athletes working off of what Title IX and the ADA have already achieved. A concerning statistic Wolff shared with the audience is the fact that not one athletic director or higher staff member within the NCAA level is a disabled athlete. This leads to the misrepresentation of disabled athletes all over the world.
The most important thing Wolff talked about was what he called the three Is. Invisibility, Interaction, and Inclusion make up the three Is and they are the levels people go through on the road to accepting someone that isn’t like themselves.
Invisibility: This is the level where a person with a disability, different sexual orientation, and so on is simply overlooked by other “normal” human beings. This stage usually is not broken until a person encounters someone different than themselves on a daily basis.
Interaction: Once that different person is met there is the period like in all relationships where you get to know that person better. This is the bridging stage between Invisibility and Inclusion.
Inclusion: The stage where people learn that regardless of disability, sexual orientation, or whatever makes that person different melts away to a state of acceptance. That we all may be different in our composition, but all are human beings on one level.
Wolff went on to answer questions on topics such as the problems with the Winter Olympics in Sochi, classification in the Paralympics, Paralympics in the media, and much more. Eli Wolff brought so much to light in a matter of a hour long presentation, and it added a lot of awareness to the movement of Inclusion in Sports.
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