Annual event brings attention to accessible recreation

SF State student Rosie Blanckenburg reared her wheelchair onto the thick treads of its haunches, elevating its smaller set of neon-lit front tires into the air. She whirled the chair around on its axis as trails of pulsating color scurried to keep up. After a few revolutions, she halted to converse with some classmates in the center of Nasser Family Plaza while casually maintaining her effortless wheelie.

“It just takes some practice and confidence,” Blanckenburg said. “Once I got into the right mindset, doing wheelies was easy.”

Blanckenburg joined SF State students and faculty for wheelchair bowling, seated volleyball and upper-body cycling during the University’s second Accessible Adventures Day May 7. The collection of informational booths and modified competitions aimed to make students with or without disabilities aware of the activities available for people living with a variety of disabilities.

“It’s our goal to get this information out there to as many people as possible,” said Patrick Tierney, an SF State professor in the recreation, parks and tourism department. “You never know who somebody might know that can benefit from these programs.”

A parks and recreation major Russell Meglio tries bowling from a wheelchair at Accessible Adventures Day in front of the gym in Don Nasser Family Plaza Thursday, May 7. (Kate Fraser / Xpress)

A parks and recreation major Russell Meglio tries bowling from a wheelchair at Accessible Adventures Day in front of the gym in Don Nasser Family Plaza Thursday, May 7. (Kate Fraser / Xpress)

Tierney’s department, along with SF State’s Campus Recreation Department and Disability Programs Resource Center, teamed up for the event with outside organizations that provide athletic opportunities for students like Blanckenburg, who said she has participated in wheelchair basketball and kayaking. The featured programs offer innovative equipment for adapted recreation, like Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired’s sound-assisted archery targets and a soft-tired wheelchair that allows for mobility on sand.

“The confidence that people get out of these activities is amazing to see,” Tierney said. “When they can say ‘Hey I did that,’ it’s a great thing.”

The gathering converged around a stage in the small quad to hear keynote speaker Cristina Rubke speak on behalf of the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors. Rubke is a former Access Class European Sailing Champion and competes using a joystick-like steering mechanism that she operates with her chin.

“There’s been a ton of times where I was like ‘This is it, I’m going in the water,’ and it was terrifying at first,” Rubke said as she addressed the crowd. “I got over it eventually though. Having experiences like these are so important for this community and events like this make it all happen.”

Recreation, parks and tourism major Taylor Dempsey worked at one of the event’s booths and said she was impressed by what the organizations offer to participants.

“It’s amazing what people are capable of,” Dempsey said. “Everyone should have equal opportunity to experience these activities, no matter what their abilities are.”

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