“Pagaiando abilmente”: kayak for everyone

We’ve often talked about the importance of sports to include people with disability. In the last years, there’s a growing number of initiatives whose main goal is, precisely, overtaking architectonical and cultural barriers through sports. For instance, “Pagaiando abilmente” (“Ably paddling”), the project by “Teocle” yacht club in Giardini Naxos (ME), that, throughout its 60 years of story, has contributed to make many young and very young people interested in rowing. Its commitment has been rewarded also with the “Bronze Cross for sport merits”.

"Pagaiando abilmente" - poster

“Pagaiando abilmente” rises from the idea to attract all the young people to this sport, without any difference, to give them all the opportunity to fully experience the relationship with the sea, through sport practice, with countless benefits in terms of psychophysical development and, therefore, to effectively contributing to the growth of the community they live in. This will be done not just through classes with instructors specifically trained to interact with kids with various disabilities, who will use kayaks and aids complying with their specific needs, but also through a process of refurbishment of the club location, on the sea of Giardini Naxos, to remove architectonical barriers and make it fully accessible.

But this has considerable costs. That’s why the “Pagaiando abilmente” project is among those that crowdfunded on the OSO – Ogni Sport Oltre platform,  promoted by Vodafone Foundation precisely to let projects aiming to widespread the sport culture and the social value of it be known and supported. You can contribute to fund the project donating at least 5 € through the page dedicated to “Pagaiando abilmente” on the OSO website. We still have a few weeks to help the project reach its goal to collect 6,000 € needed to adjust the ramp to access the beach, build a mechanical lifting system, delimit a pool in blue water and buy kayaks adapted to the disabled people needs. Let’s try it, ok?

OSO: beyond barriers, the strength of sports

Some time ago, we already talked about the importance of sports for who lives with a disability, not just as a hobby, but also as a way to overthrow cultural barriers and facilitate the real and effective social inclusion. Also last year’s Rio Paralympic Games represented an important step towards that direction, demonstrating (if ever the need arose) that also who has a disability can be a champion in sports, under appropriate conditions. This principle is the basis of OSO – Ogni Sport Oltre (Every Sport Beyond), the project launched by Fondazione Vodafone Italia to promote and support projects and initiatives which, through sports, promote the inclusion of disabled people into the community.

OSO Ogni Sport Oltre

As the official video of this initiative states more than once, the OSO code word is “Change your story. Disable your own limits”, since, as demonstrated by the stories of many celebrities (Bebe Vio, Alex Zanardi, and others) involved in this initiative, the difference is made also by our attitude, the way we look at our own disability and the decision “not to let it win” and find, however, a way to live our passions (not just those related to sports) with some “tweak”, but with the same intensity as the others.

OSO Diversamente Abili Ugualmente Sportivi

What are you saying? It’s true and right, but passing from theory to practice is often difficult, if not impossible, firstly because it isn’t that easy finding info about what already exists, maybe just a few kilometres far from us? That’s the other reason why OSO website was built: there you’ll find not only the stories of those who “got it” or new projects to fund (also through crowdfunding), but also info and a map to search for the nearest sport structures.

So, no more excuses: are we ready to “disable our own limits”?

OSO - Volleyball

*Pictures taken from OSO – Ogni Sport Oltre official website 

Rio 2016 Paralympic games: an analysis

Rio de Janeiro’s Paralympic Games, the 15th in the history of this event, have just ended and it’s time for an analysis.

Moved to Brazil with more than 100 athletes, the Italian team comes back home with very gratifying outcomes: 39 gained medals (10 gold medals, 14 silver medals and 15 bronze medals) that, for the first time in the last 20 years, allowed Italy to enter the final top 10.

An outstanding outcome, resulted from the commitment, the talent and the moxie of extraordinary athletes, who kept thousands of Italian people stuck in front of TV and computer screens, won over both by the sport achievements and the irresistible human touch of people such as Bebe Vio, Alex Zanardi, Federico Morlacchi, Martina Caironi, Alvise De Vidi, Assunta Legnante, etc. Many men and women, each one with his (or her) personal and sport story, who gained, day by day, an increasing space on traditional and new media, too.

The attention paid to the event by TV, newspapers and web is one of the most positive outcomes of this edition of Paralympic Games. RAI ensured an excellent coverage to the whole event, using both RAI2 and RaiSport (both channels are visible for free), plus its web streaming service, to give room not just to the achievements of Italian athletes, but also to the most important matches of sports where no Italian athlete was involved. “Gazzetta dello Sport”, the most important sport newspaper in Italy,  reserved an entire section of its very visited website to the Paralympic athletes’ achievements, exalting their outcomes, not only under a sport perspective.

But, besides the space reserved to Rio Paralympic Games, in my opinion, the most relevant aspect is the tone of voice used to narrate them: no lamenting tones, no obsessive focus on the athletes’ specific disabilities. Above all, the focus was on their sport achievements, giving prominence to their personality. I’ll never forget Bebe Vio screaming soon after having won, at her very first participation in Paralympic Games, the gold medal in foil: the (very justifiable) jubilation of a 19 years old girl who is aware of having achieved an important outcome. Nothing more, nothing less.

I wanna thank all the athletes for these days full of intense emotions, which I strongly hope will have positive effects on the daily life of all the disabled people, not just in Italy.

See you in Tokyo in 4 years: will Alex Zanardi be there as well? Maybe…

Rio 2016 Paralympic games: a new way to look at disability

After the suggestive opening ceremony which took place last night, today the challenges of the Rio de Janeiro’s Paralympic Games, the 15th in history, quicken. ‘Til September 18th, more than 4.300 athletes from 176 countries will test themselves in 23 disciplines. Italy presents itself with 101 athletes, among who stand out, just to mention some of them, Martina Caironi, Beatrice “Bebe” VioAlex Zanardi, Monica Contrafatto, Giusy Versace, Giulia Ghiretti.

The value of Paralympic Games goes well beyond sports, since, as the athletes themselves underlined, they represent an opportunity to spotlight on disability, contributing to establish that “disability culture” which still struggles to get fully understood and accepted.

Rio Paralympic Games 2016But Paralympic Games are also an opportunity to reflect on the way Paralympic athletes are presented and seen. Mostly starting from London 2012, it- luckily- seems that we’ve finally overcome the “pietistic” view that had been almost dominating for decades: Paralympic athletes aren’t “minor”, but respectable athletes who train, compete, break records, etc.

Nevertheless, in my opinion, there’s another risk, just around the corner: I call it the “supermen rhetoric”, which refers to, starting from its title, also the suggestive video created by the English Channel 4, that broadcasts Paralympic Games in the UK.

Is it right to look at Paralympic athletes as “supermen” (and “superwomen”) just because they compete facing, in addition to their competitors, also more or less severe physical or sensory disabilities? Is it of use to the disability culture cause (for all, not just for Paralympic athletes) look at the mas “superheroes” or inspiration or it risks, on the contrary, to create an additional barrier among us, disabled people, and the others, the “abled-bodied” people?

Tom, the mascot of Rio Paralympic Games 2016

Wouldn’t it be, maybe, more right (and useful) to describe their sport achievements, exalting them as they deserve, but avoiding to mention their supposed “superiority”? sure, it’s indubitably useful to who daily deals with any chronic disability to see other people sharing his own condition (or a more severe one) who, instead of feeling sorry for themselves, put themselves on the line, challenging their own limits. But isn’t challenging their own limits exactly the same thing as able-bodied athletes do? Why do we need to underline this just for Paralympic athletes?

I’ll never grow tired of repeating this: disabled people aren’t better nor worse than anyone else. Disabled people are, above all, people. And they’d be described as people.  Will it happen in Rio 2016, too?  We’ll wait and see and, of course, support our teams!


Sports are great!

In these days, European Football Championship is everywhere, then I cannot avoid talking about the importance of sports, not only as hobbies and ways to stay in good shape, but also as moments to socialize, both as spectators and as main characters!

It’s absolutely untrue, indeed, that practicing a sport (even at a competitive level) is just for “able-bodied” people (we’d have a lot to discuss about the “normality” and “ability” concepts, by the way). Institutions and federations organizing championships and sport events dedicated to physically or mentally disabled people have been a reality for years, today. And those events have as much dignity and sport value as the others, to the extent that, since 1960, in the same year as the Olympic Games, the Paralympic ones take place.

Sports such as basketball, tennis, fencing aren’t “impossible” at all for people with a motoric deficit, for instance. Similarly, athletics, running, swimming aren’t precluded to people with sensory disabilities. You simply need to use the appropriate expediments, for instance using ad adapted wheelchair suitable for sport practice or being assisted by a “guide” inside the swimming pool or on the track.

How to start practicing a sport “seriously”? The typical advices for everyone are valid for disabled people as well: before starting, undergo accurate medical checks and, of course, consult your trusted doctors specialised in your disease to evaluate together the most suitable sport.

sports - basketball

Have you ever watched a wheelchair basketball match or admired the great Beatrice “Bebe” Vio in action on the fencing platform? If your answer is “yes”, you’d realize that, as regards competitiveness, talent and emotions, disabled sports are as good as the “able” versions.

If, on the contrary, you’re incurably lazy and prefer watching sports, even “live”, you’d probably already know that the most popular sports federations (from football to basketball, from volleyball to tennis, just to mention some examples) always include, inside the plants, a quote of seats (or areas, according to the size of the plants) reserved to disabled people and their companions. In the majority of cases, the entrance is totally free: you just have to send well in advance the RAD (Accreditation Request for Disabled people) form, downloadable from the website of the sport society playing at home and any other requested document (e.g. invalidity certificate and, sometimes, identity card) to the organizing company to enjoy the show without any other worry apart supporting your team!