My name is Matt Feeney and I am the cofounder of Adaptive Adventures. In 1988, I suffered a spinal cord injury that left me paralysed from the mid-abdomen down. First and foremost, I am a survivor. Despite my disability, I have become a certified water and snow ski instructor, a decorated hand cyclist and a two-time off-road downhill champion. My dream was, and still is, to inspire others like me to embrace their disability and to enjoy the benefits of outdoor sports for mental and physical wellbeing. One of my proudest moments was being named Colorado’s Adaptive Athletes of the Year.
Wheelchair basketball – widely regarded as one of the most beneficial recreational activities for people with disabilities – is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular adapted sport. The adapted sport’s popularity is supported by the fact that 75 countries have now established dedicated wheelchair basketball leagues and competitions.
How would you react if I told you that I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, while confined to a wheelchair? I wouldn’t be surprised if you doubted or even disbelieved my claim. I don’t judge or blame you for these doubts. In fact, if you’d asked me if I could accomplish such a feat 5 years ago, I would have told you that it would be impossible with my physical disability – a genetic ailment that left me with no legs below the pelvis.
Everyone has the desire of exploring the natural wonders and beautiful sites spread around the world. However, most of these destinations are not accessible. Nonetheless, Australia has made great strides to create barrier-free travel for people with disabilities. The country offers a wide variety of wheelchair-friendly holiday destinations, accommodations, and tours.
Paralympic sports provide athletes with disability equal opportunities to compete and be successful. Just like a footballer who carefully selects his or her playing boots, Paralympic athletes select their equipment carefully to match their sporting and individual needs, and give them an edge in elite competition.
If you decide to participate in adapted sports, whether professionally or recreationally, it’s important that you use the right equipment for your safety and enjoyment, and to give you the best chance of success.