All people, including people with disabilities, should have the opportunity, if they choose, to play sports.
We recently reached out to Keith Newerla to talk about how to access adaptive sports equipment to play sports when you have a disability. Keith is the Community Program Coordinator at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, and he uses a wheelchair.
Keith manages the hospital’s adaptive sports program and has a long history of competing in sports. He has taken part in two paralympic games, rode horses for the US equestrian team for a decade, played basketball in college, and won a national championship in rugby. Keith is passionate about sports and wants everyone to have the opportunity to play.
We describe assistive technology (AT) as any device that helps a person with a disability do the things they want to do. This includes adaptive sports equipment that helps you play sports safely with greater independence.
Trying to find funding for adaptive sports equipment can be challenging, but don’t give up!
Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation (PATF) offers a variety of funding resources that may be available for the AT you want for sports activities.
Adaptive sports equipment is not covered by health insurance policies so people must pay for them out-of-pocket, and PATF can provide loans for things like this.
PATF can help by extending a no-interest loan through our Mini-Loan Program, or by providing information such as our guide titled Funding Your Assistive Technology: A Guide to Funding Resources in Pennsylvania.
“Funding for adaptive sports equipment is important and the value of independence is huge,” said Keith Newerla. “You can do a fair amount of what you did before, you might just have to do it differently than before, and you might need a different piece of equipment to do it.”
Keith says the goal of the community-based program is to introduce people with disabilities to others with disabilities, giving them the opportunity to stay active with recreation and exercise, while improving their quality of life and health.
“We have two wheelchair basketball teams, a wheelchair rugby team, a wheelchair tennis team, a racing team that participates in the Broad Street Run and Philadelphia Marathon,” said Keith.
The program also includes snow skiing, water skiing, and wheelchair curling.
Adaptive sports equipment is not simply one-size-fits-all; the gear is customized to fit to the individual’s body and shape.
“You need a different piece of equipment for everything you want to do. Some of the newer people to the disability community may not be aware of that,” Keith said.
He believes that it is important to get the word out about PATF’s loan programs so that people with disabilities can purchase assistive technology devices that make it possible for them to gain more freedom.
“A small or large piece of assistive technology is incredibly important, because in a lot of ways you can’t put a price on independence. Being independent is extremely meaningful,” said Keith.
Magee Rehabilitation Hospital’s adaptive sport program has teams that practice in West Deptford, NJ at Riverwinds Community Center, and the Riverwinds Tennis and Golf.
The Magee Foundation funds the sports program in Philadelphia and pays for most of the equipment. You do not need to be a Magee patient to participate; anyone is welcome to join regardless of their athletic ability.
“And hopefully, whichever activity it is they get involved in impacts their life like mine was. For me, that’s equally, if not more, rewarding than what I accomplished personally,” said Keith. “Sports and recreation have changed my life in so many ways, working with this sports program gives me the opportunity to pay it forward.”
Acquiring funding for assistive technology can take time, research, and work, but we’ve compiled resources for you to make it an easier process.
To learn more about funding assistive technology for people with disabilities, go to www.patf.us or call 484-674-0506.
You can get more information about the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital’s sports program by emailing email@example.com or calling 215-587-3412.