Category Archives: Blog

USAofVa Attends Sportable’s Annual Paralympic Experience Day at VCU’s Siegel Center

On Friday April 15th Sportable, in partnership with VCU’s Center for Sports Leadership, Sportable hosted their annual Paralympic Experience Day.

The event took place at VCU’s Siegel Center and was MC’d by NBC12’s Marc Davis.

Participants, including many USAofVa members, got the chance to try some adaptive sports offered by Sportable including: hand cycling, weightlifting, goal ball, sit volleyball, power soccer, and wheelchair basketball.

The evening culminated with an exhibition wheelchair basketball game featuring the newly crowned NIT National Champion Sportable Spokes v.s. The VCU Rams men’s basketball team. The Rams competed well while adjusting to the adaptive sport, but were no match for the young Spokes. The Spokes took home bragging rights with a 23-13 final score.

The main event had an equally impressive encore. Mark Zupan made a gracious appearance, lending his celebrity to the Paralympic

Mark Zupan, Paralympic Gold Medalist and star of "Murderball"

Mark Zupan, Paralympic Gold Medalist and star of “Murderball”

Experience. Zupan captained the 2008 USA Olympic wheelchair rugby team to gold in Beijing, and is the star of the critically acclaimed documentary “Murderball”. Zupan capped the evening off by speaking to the Spokes and attendees about how his disability has added so many positive things to his life. His ultimate message was to not let disabilities hinder your dreams, you can still accomplish a great deal…just in a different way.

Sportable is hosting another Paralympic Experience Day for those living in the Piedmont region on April 23rd at Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.


U.S. Paralympics and IPC Host Roundtable on How Sport Aids Disability Employment

3/10/16-Washington D.C.- The U.S. Paralympics and IPC hosted leaders in disability advocates for a round table discussion and panel. The subject of the talks was how sport has a positive impact on unemployment amongst disabled people.

From  “Several of the US’s leading disability advocates attended the meeting which was hosted by the IPC and US Paralympics.
A woman with brown hair and glasses speaks to an audience and holds a piece of paper featuring a graphic to illustrate a point. Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, US Department of State, addresses the IPC/USOC roundtable discussion in Washington© •
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The IPC and US Paralympics hosted several leading US disability advocates at a roundtable discussion in Washington DC, the USA, on Wednesday (9 March) to talk about improving employment opportunities for people with a disability.

Held at the US headquarters of IPC international partner BP, panellists included IPC President Sir Philip Craven, Judith Heumann, Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, US Department of State; Jennifer Sheehy, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Disability Employment Policy, US Department of Labour and Cheri Blauwet MD, Chair of the IPC Medical Committee and Instructor in Physical Medicine Rehabilitation/Sports Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dan Brooke, Chief Marketing Officer of British broadcaster Channel 4, also joined the event via video conference from London, Great Britain.

To kick-off the three-hour panel, Judith Heumann gave a broad perspective on disability rights in the US, covering both historical and current challenges and opportunities, whilst Jennifer Sheehy talked about US employment rates, barriers and interventions for people with a disability.

Three-time Paralympian and seven-time medallist Cheri Blauwet then presented results from a pilot study which revealed that people with a spinal cord injury are 2.4 times more likely to be in employment if they participate in organised sport.

Sir Philip Craven revealed data from a joint IPC/U.S. Paralympics research study into attitudes towards disability and employment in the US. The research revealed:

– One in three Americans think a person with a disability would not be able to do their job.

– 39 per cent believe an employee with a physical disability would get paid less compared to other employees doing the same job, and worrying one in nine people believe less payment would be justified.

– 28 per cent would not hire a person with a disability for a job

Finally, Dan Brooke spoke at length about how the London 2012 Paralympics Games not only transformed attitudes towards people with an impairment in Great Britain but were the broadcaster’s finest hour, changing the way they operated as a socially inclusive business.

Sir Philip Craven said: “The roundtable event was part of our strategy to raise awareness in the US of the transformational effect of the Paralympic Movement ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games and I would like to thank all those who attended Wednesday’s roundtable discussion.

“There was lots of excellent dialogue involving several leading disability advocates in the US. I think everyone in the room, especially after hearing from Channel 4’s inspirational Dan Brooke, fully understood the role Paralympic sport can play in transforming attitudes and contributing to a more equitable society for all.””

First Peer Mentor Training Sessions are in the Books

This weekend marked a monumental step in United Spinal Association of Virginia’s marquee program, Peer and Family Mentoring.

Participants included 20 peer and family mentor candidates, from across the state, with the max for each of the one day sessions being 10. Many additional community partners were represented, as well, in order to gain knowledge of the comprehensive mentoring USAofVa mentors will be able to offer their clients.

The class was conducted by Lindsey Elliot MSW, of the United Spinal Association’s national office. Participants were given a myriad of tools to help them be the most effective and professional mentors they can be.

With an estimated 250 individuals sustaining SCI’s each year, in Virginia, the Peer Mentoring program will be key to helping those new injuries navigate their rehabilitation and healing.

USAofVa would like to extend a HUGE ‘Thank You’ to those who volunteered their time and engaged in very productive learning sessions, and committed themselves to further serving future SCI’s in their communities!

If you would like to get information about becoming a mentor by joining an upcoming training session, or know someone who could benefit from a peer mentor relationship, please click here!

Peer Mentoring #2

Virginia Governor recognizes USAofVA member, Joshua Smith, with STEM Catalyst Award

Josh Smith is the founder of Handizap and a 2013 Mechanical Engineering graduate from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In August 2014, while visiting Virginia Beach, Josh dove into a wave and struck a sandbar, causing a burst fracture of his C-5 vertebrate – resulting in him becoming a C-6 quadriplegic. While in physical rehabilitation, Josh was given assistive technology to help him use his electronic devices; however, these devices required continued assistance to use. As a solution to this problem, Josh developed a ring stylus that could be worn on the pinky finger, named the 6th Digit.

In March 2015, Josh and friend Jared Rhodes founded Handizap via a Kickstarter campaign to manufacture the Sixth Digit and develop assistive technologies. Since the initial shipment in September, the Sixth Digit has been delivered to Kickstarter supporters, rehabilitation facilities, businesses, and individuals across 22 states and eight countries worldwide.

On February 5, 2016 Governor Terry McAuliffe released a statement honoring Josh and others, which reads in part,“The innovations and discoveries by these outstanding individuals and companies are essential to our work as we build a new Virginia economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “As we continue the tradition of honoring professionals and businesses that make significant contributions to science, it is fitting that we also recognize students and individual citizens who are using STEM to make Virginia a better place.”

– Read more about Josh’s recognition Here!

-To learn more about Josh’s invention and/or purchase your own, click Here!

-New Mobility Magazine’s feature article on the 6th Digit.