This four-part series is dedicated to a great friend and leader who asked himself that very question. His decision to take a stand for disability inclusion not only altered my trajectory as an athlete, but created a ripple effect of interest and involvement by his company, Specialized Bicycle Components.
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How do we ensure we aren’t leaving out students with physical disabilities through The Specialized Foundation’s Riding For Focus Program?
It seemed as though there wasn’t a department we didn’t touch while at Specialized and that our presentation had an impact on a wide range of people that day.
In addition to the Retül Fit Program and Innovation Center/R&D Test Lab, we were approached by The Specialized Foundation. After talking with Program and Research Director, David Wood, as well as Research and Programs Coordinator, Kaylee Blevins, we started seeing some exciting synergies in our work.
As a former Officer in the United States Marine Corps, David did not realize there was a gap in access for amputees. In his experience, prostheses were generously covered by the military for active-duty and veteran amputees. Kaylee had a personal friend who was an amputee, but seemed to have been able to access what they’ve needed. This realization that many amputees do struggle to access appropriate prosthetic technology and care was very new to them, but they realized quickly they wanted to do something to help. They also realized there may be barriers beyond prosthetic technology that may prevent an amputee from participating in sport.
That’s when we started talking about the Foundation’s Riding For Focus Program.
Riding For Focus uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic, health, and social success. The Foundation has partnered with schools across the country to bring cycling into the Physical Education curriculum, and grants equipment such as bicycles, helmets, and tools so all students can participate. Through partnerships with primary scientific medical research, The Foundation has found cycling and exercise has enormous positive effects on children including improved thinking, greater happiness, decreased anxiety and depression, and better academic performance.
However, they realized they didn’t necessarily have the tools, language, or resources in place to support students with physical disabilities, and their schools and teachers. They didn’t want to leave these students out, and so, they wanted to partner with me and Forrest Stump to help bridge this gap.
Immediately, I connected them with the Challenged Athletes Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants adaptive sports equipment to children and adults with disabilities, as a first step in providing the necessary resources. Now, we are discussing additional resources we can develop to help support these schools.
I’ve also joined The Specialized Foundation as their first “adaptive” athlete ambassador. I’m honored to join the ranks of cyclists I look up to, including Gwen Jorgensen, Katie Zaferes, Christopher Blevins, and others. I look forward to utilizing my perspective as an athlete with a disability to help promote inclusion through their grant program, as well as riding with and encouraging kids of all abilities.
To read the next post in this four-part series, click “Read More” below.
Want to support these efforts or more disability conversations? Consider making a donation to Forrest Stump, or contact Nicole Ver Kuilen (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn about gift opportunities. Want to bring Nicole into your own company? Shoot her an email with an idea!