As the Tucson metropolitan area continues to grow, so does our population of children with disabilities. While there are multiple opportunities for extracurricular activities for children without disabilities, those with disabilities are not afforded the opportunity for participation in recreation and athletics. The Disability Resource Center (DRC) at the University of Arizona founded the Juniors Active in Wheelchair Sports (JAWS) program to address this need.
The JAWS program strives to identify those children ages 5 to 18 with disabilities who would benefit from participation in adaptive sports programs. As these children are identified, they attend activities that teach a variety of sports throughout the year. Historically, there has been no charge for participation in the JAWS program.
Children are brought to campus for events, which focus on team and individual sports such as basketball, rugby, tennis, racquetball, and track. Participants have the chance to improve their wheelchair handling skills, as well as experience both recreational and competitive athletics. In addition, sport specific skills are taught and practiced such as dribbling a basketball or hitting a tennis ball. Clearly, this type of activity has many benefits inherent to physical activities afforded to non-disabled children such as improving strength, coordination, muscle tone and endurance. In a manner of speaking, the JAWS program provides these children with therapeutic recreation services not otherwise available in the Tucson area.
Participation in JAWS events provides the child with a disability the chance to form a “big brother/big sister” relationship with a University of Arizona Wildchair. This relationship gives the child a mentor and role model that has significant long term implications Additionally, children have the chance to develop and put into practice athletic skills which would otherwise go unrecognized.
The largest group of collaborators with the JAWS program is the various University departments, which offer their services. These include the Disability Resource Center, Campus Recreation Center, and Risk Management. Within the community, business help provide equipment and maintenance at a very reasonable cost, even donating equipment whenever possible. With additional funding, materials will be prepared and disseminated as a recruitment tool to students with mobility impairments in local school districts. Further, The Wheelchair Basketball and Quad Rugby teams travel to many schools in the Tucson area doing exhibitions surrounding disability awareness and empowerment.
University of Arizona Women's Wheelchair Basketball