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Assistive technologies increasing participation in sport

Innovations making it easier for athletes with disabilities to play

The Alberta Roughnecks (blue) face off against the Ontario Thunder (white) at the Vancouver Invitational Wheelchair Rugby tournament at the Richmond Olympic Oval. Photo: Maxim Fossey
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Reported by Maxim Fossey

Assistive technologies have helped bring many people with disabilities into sports. These opportunities are growing for local athletes, and is the focus of a UBC panel happening next week.

Andrea Bundon, assistant professor at UBC’s school of kinesiology and one of the speakers of the April 8 panel, said a lot more research has been done in those technologies in recent years.

“This is something that’s good for the athletes. There’s a sort of social obligation to help people with disabilities that provide opportunities,” Bundon said.

Bundon said that paralympic athletes have been successful with social media by getting a lot more publicity and sponsorships, and spreading awareness about the paralympic movement.

Researching new technologies

Cameron Gee, a PhD candidate in kinesiology at UBC, said that post-secondary institutions across Vancouver are working on research to improve assistive technologies for sports.

“There is a group at Camosun College on Vancouver Island that use 3D scanning and rapid prototyping techniques to create individualized seats and different assistive technology that are helping a lot of athletes with comfort, which can help to improve stability, speed, and agility, which are important for many para-sports such as sledge hockey and wheelchair rugby,” Gee said.

Ethan Hess, a local para-nordic skier, said that the better the technology gets for sit-skis, the faster he can go and the better he gets.

“I think sports for people with disabilities is incredibly important,” Hess said. “And can really help people in a bunch of ways to deal with having a disability.”

Gee said the Canadian Paralympic teams are making athletes appear as superhumans with all the impressive things they do.

“When I tell people about friends that have been surfing or skiing, they can’t believe it.”

 

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