While I was still in the states working on this project, I talked to a wheelchair basketball coach who explained to me that in the United States, because of limited density of athletes, there is a sort of competition for athletes across sports. Further, there is no unified organization working to further the interests of all differently abled athletes. Each organization works on it’s own sport: wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, or track and field, for example.
Here in India, I expected to be able to “snowball sample” my interviews: get a few names from each person to be able to fill out a network of differently abled athletes. While this has worked to some extent, I’m not tapping into a preexisting network – I’m accessing a friend or connection someone happens to have. The blind cricket community has mostly connections within the blind cricket community, and tennis players know some other tennis players.
Last week, I was able to meet with the Kerala Sports Council. I was able to talk to the president, a former star athlete herself, and hear about their programs to support athletes through paying for their room and board while at school. It is within this context that they support some athletes with disabilities, but I was unable to find out how many or to what extent that this is emphasized in their programs.
Like in the U.S. and elsewhere, advocacy for differently abled athletes is less a web of support and more spokes on a wheel, reaching in different directions but without encouragement from similarly minded organizations and people. Connecting these spokes can hopefully improve their ability to push for increased support for sporting activities for differently abled athletes.