No matter your age, regular exercise is important for a person to maintain a healthy weight, enhance their cardiovascular capacity and increase and improve strength, mobility, and flexibility. The same is true for people with disabilities; only they have an added challenge. Finding a sport or activity that not only interests them but also accommodates their disability can be a bit of a challenge.
An organization known as Disabled Sports USA was formed in 1967 to promote exercise for the disabled. It is a community-based chapter network, making it possible to reach disabled people in every part of the U.S. It’s headquarters is located right here in Rockville, Maryland.
The mission of the organization is to provide leadership at a national level. It also creates opportunities for those with disabilities to develop confidence, independence and to become and remain fit by participating in community sports, education and recreation programs.
Through this national network, over 60,000 youth and adults participate every year. The network has more than 100 community-based chapters in 37 states that support more than 40 different sports.
The following are local chapters of Disable Sports USA for those living in Maryland:
Bennett Institute Physically Challenged Sports Program of Kennedy Krieger (Baltimore)
The Bennett Institute is opened to all disadvantage children, ages 2 to 21 and not just to those that are current or former patients. They plan to expand sports program to include adults and will work with the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury (ICSCI) to become a Paralympic Sports Club. Currently, their program has a wheelchair tennis team, basketball team and even an ice hockey team. The Institute offers a variety of sports programs which are tailored to meet the needs of each individual child and their family on a weekly basis.
Some of their programs include:
- Ice Skating
- Wheelchair Basketball
- Table Tennis
- Sitting Volleyball
- Wheelchair Softball
- Wheelchair Football
- Track and Field
- Power Soccer
Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (Annapolis)
CRAB is dedicated to making the thrill of sailing a reality for the physically and developmentally disabled individuals. The boats are designed to accommodate all types of disabilities. CRAB offers a sailfree Sunday once a month which designed to introduce persons with disabilities and their families to the therapeutic and pure joy of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay. They also offer 2-day camp to disadvantage youth with classroom lession and hands-on sailing as well as 2-day sailing clinics dedicated to teaching sailing and racing. The 2-day clinic concludes with a sailing race giving the participants the opportunity to put their newly learned sailing skills to use. CRAB recommends that you call ahead for availability and reservations.
Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports -BRASS (Severna Park)
BRASS’ mission is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities through adaptive snow sports and recreational activities by offering ski and snowboard instruction at Liberty Mountain Resort located in Central Pennsylvania in the form of visually impaired/DD, stand-up skiing or sit-down skiing with the use of special equipment. Reservations must be made 48 hours prior to desired time. They offer half day with one lesson, or full day with 1 extended lesson or 2 lessons.
Baltimore Adaptive Recreation and Sports (Sparks)
BARS was created to provide recreation and sports programs for individuals with disabilities. It is open to all individuals with disabilities and is free to join. Family members are welcomed on all outings with BARS. The programs vary depending on the season be are reasonably priced.
Here is a list of what is currently being offered through BARS:
- BARS Cycling
- Snow Skiing
- Water Skiing
It’s worth noting that most of these establishments offer the use of special equipment should you not have it. Disabled Sports USA has a page on their website listing retailers who sell specialized sporting equipment for those with disabilities. See Adaptive Equipment for a comprehensive list of retailers.
Department of Natural Resources
DNR offers a Universal Disability Pass that is a free lifetime pass and does not require any renewal. This pass allows those with disabilities plus one other person free entrance into any of the State Parks and Forests. The pass does not cover automated gate entrance systems or additional service charges in the park such as for camping or boat launch. In addition, a person who possesses a valid hunting license but has a disability that impairs their mobility may receive a permit to hunt from the vehicle.