Let’s talk about ableism in play

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Ableism in Play

To say Chris is an active kid would be an understatement. From baseball to football, there isn’t a sport he doesn’t like. But his favourite sport by far is basketball, with his teams of choice—the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Phoenix Sun—in a three-way tie for his all-time favourite position.

And it’s a love of basketball Chris exudes on the court, where he plays centre or small forward. While he’s perfecting his layups and three-point shots, Chris, who has cerebral palsy, is also challenging ableism in sports.

Why do you like sports so much?

They are something that I can do to change other peoples’ perspectives on those with disabilities. Sports are a way to show how active I am, and to show people that I can do things that they may think I can’t do.

How does it make you feel when people assume you can’t do something because of your disability?

It makes me upset at times because people should know better. But my legs stand out and I enjoy that because it shows that I’m proud to be who I am.

What would you like to tell people who make those assumptions?

Don’t make assumptions about people because one day, they might prove you wrong. For example, I can run and play sports, even though people may think I can’t because I wear AFOs (ankle-foot orthotics). But I’m proud of who I am and I don’t care what anyone says.

When you play sports, do people try to go easy on you because you wear AFOs?

Before I really started playing basketball, some people would try to go easy on me. Now, I’m the best player—unless they’re taller than me, of course.

When people go easy on you while playing sports, how do you react?

I always feel like they can try to go easy on me, but I can do better.

What do you hope people will learn from campaigns like Dear Everybody?

I don’t like using the term disability because I just have a different ability*. So, I hope this campaign shows that people can do anything and everything—no matter what different ability or disability they have that’s unique. I also hope people will learn that with more awareness there will be more inclusion.

* At Holland Bloorview, we believe in supporting our clients, families, and alumni in regards to their language use; for example, whether they prefer people-first or identity-first language. In this article, Chris uses different ability to describe himself.