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Organised Basketball Leads The Way In Disability Inclusion

Basketball has always been one of the most pro-inclusion sports around, starting in the 80s with the Chicago Bulls sponsoring the Wheelchair NBA (WNBA). Today, more opportunities are on the way, with The Athletic reporting a recent rule change that would allow NBA professionals to invest in wheelchair teams alongside those in their own division, male or female. This sort of visibility is crucial to the competitiveness of the league, and with greater competition comes more interest and more potential gains for athletes. Together, this is contributing to a really positive picture for wheelchair basketball - though more can be done.

Broadening the scope

Wheelchair basketball is one of the most inclusive sports when it comes to disability; it has long provided a safe, well-funded and accessible frontier for people living with disability who want to get involved in exercise. Now, the scope of the sport is expanding further. Team USA recently announced rosters for the inaugural Team USA vs. College All-Star Wheelchair Basketball Competition at Women’s Final Four, marking another huge step in the visibility and acceptance of the sport. The competitiveness now found in the sport is considerable - the top level of the competition, battled out at the Wheelchair Basketball World Championship, has most recently been won by Great Britain, Australia and Canada, after nearly two decades of largely US dominance. The next tournament, held in the United Arab Emirates in June, will allow teams to duke it out after an extended hiatus posed by coronavirus restrictions.

NWBA expansion

A greater degree of prestige and class is also being developed within the wheelchair sport as per the latest news from the NWBA website. With a hall of fame now being populated, rings and accolades will start to be handed out to help greatly increase the profile and prestige of the sport. A big pull of the NBA is the huge sums of money and the fame that players can gain; the sport does a lot to promote its stars. The NWBA embarking on the same course will help to promote and encourage players.

Enabling greater accessibility

While the NWBA has done a lot for inclusion within basketball, there has been relatively little engagement with other disabilities, with the exception of hearing loss (there is a variant of the sport communicated in American sign language). Wheelchair basketball has done a lot to change its rules and format to allow for wheelchairs, but it remains a relatively simple switch; more complex conditions, with varying levels of mobility and cognitive impairment, can be more difficult to plan around. That being said, where there’s a will there’s a way, and more could certainly be done to expand accessibility in basketball.

The sport is nevertheless at the vanguard of positive efforts to improve sporting inclusion for people living with disability. With wheelchair basketball popular and planners putting more work into improving its profile, there’s a real sense of being involved for those that may otherwise be precluded from the top level of sport.