UCF Knights of all abilities showed up in record numbers for the annual Recreation and Wellness Center Inclusive Recreation Expo. Students experienced yoga poses with blindfolded, played Paralympic sports like Goalball and Wheelchair Basketball and learned how to play Quad Rugby. The RWC partnered with Student Disability Services, Orange County Clash and for the first-time ever, Special Olympics, to host the day-long event featuring activities available at the RWC for students with disabilities.
Katherine Torres, a junior and health administration major, attended last year as a participant, but this year she helped plan and organize the event. Torres is the new Inclusive Recreation lead at the RWC and a member of the RWC’s front office staff. She was so pleased with the record turnout this fall, “It’s really hard getting the word out about these activities, because they feel like ‘Oh, if I’m not in a wheelchair I can’t participate.’ We’re definitely not limited to anybody and that’s what makes this place [RWC] really special, so I think that’s what has helped the turnout be so good this year.”
The event isn’t only for students with disabilities like Torres. The able body student population also participated. Some were blindfolded during yoga and Goalball and others sat in wheelchairs for the first time to play traditional activities like table tennis. Leandre Horn, an 18-year-old nursing student from Clearwater loved his experience, “It’s different to say the least. It’s table tennis. I didn’t think a wheelchair would keep from being able to do it, but it’s hard, it is hard to do anything (in a wheelchair). I feel like I can see from that point of view better now because I did it in a wheelchair.”
The new partnership with the Special Olympics increased the profile of this year’s event to approximately 25 percent. The partnership began at the National Intramural Recreation Sports Association Conference in Nashville, TN in the spring and carried over to this fall’s event. Students who use wheelchairs on campus, like Kristen Cioce, a masters student in social work from Orlando, say there have been major improvements on campus to program for students with disabilities, “Just the difference between my undergraduate work and my graduate program is amazing. I love that there is Student Assisted Workout (S.A.W) trainers, the adaptive equipment and things I haven’t seen even being in a wheelchair.”