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Photos: Adaptive basketball highlights challenges faced by disabled Calgarians

Something as common as putting a basketball through a hoop becomes a lot more difficult when it’s done from a wheelchair.

That was the message shared by Islamic Relief Canada and Akram Jomaa over the weekend, as disabled Calgarians competed with the able-bodied in accessible basketball at the Genesis Centre.

The event was held on International Day for People with Disabilities (IDPD), highlighting the continuing challenges that people with mobility issues face.

“We wanted to host an adaptive wheelchair tournament for able bodied people to play with disabled people,” said organizer Nada Merhi, Vice President of the Akram Jomaa Islamic Centre.

“It’s wheelchair basketball, it’s very fun, and as you know, those with individuals with mobility challenges have been severely impacted in the Covid 19 pandemic, and they haven’t readily had these opportunities for adaptive sports,” she said.

She said that one of the goals was to provide an opportunity to get people back on to the court, and to share that experience and understanding with the wider community.

Among the attendees for the tournament were representatives of the Calgary Surge CEBL basketball team as part of their Home Team Tour, Calgary Police Service officers from recruiting, their diversity department, and District 7, and Calgary-McCall MLA and former Minister of Community and Social Services Irfan Sabir.

Merhi said that it was it was important to have the event on IDPD, and to have different groups and political representatives attend to address the issues faced by what she said was the most neglected minority.

“I feel that this is the biggest minority in a very neglected community by all political parties, and I don’t think it’s intentional, but I think then again they’ve been severely impacted and, and we just want to ensure that they are getting the rights that they deserve. They face a lot of barriers due to stigmatization and inclusion, exclusion that still exists,” she said.

Adaptive wheelchair basketball a fun activity for Table Tennis Champion

Dima Al-Dahouk, a medal winning wheelchair table tennis champion, competed in the games against her husband and professional wheelchair basketball para-athlete Ousama Juha.

She said that it was important for her to share the sport she uses as physical training with the able-bodied community, as a way of helping them understand the difficulties para-athletes face.

“It’s very important for us for the normal people have to come and join us for everything, not just for the sport, but just to feel what the biggest threats we face, and what challenges that we have,” she said.

She said that for the able-bodied people joining in on IDPD, they would find it a lot more difficult.

“Wheelchair basketball is more difficult than basketball for normal people, because the normal people they can use whole body to play, but just for us we use hands and some of the waist,” Al-Dahouk said.

“They feel the challenge, and they talk to us how to do that, how to catch the ball and boost the wheelchair at the same time.”

She said that the challenge is also variable for people with disabilities. For her, with scoliosis, it poses different challenges than people who have different types of mobility disabilities

The sport of wheelchair accessible basketball, she said, was a great one to build strength and for use as physiotherapy.

Support from Surge

During the Oct. 19 unveiling of the Surge CEBL franchise, owner Jason Ribeiro was asked about the possibility of the team engaging with the wheelchair basketball community.

“We’ve talked about a lot about diversity inclusion, but accessibility is paramount too,” he said at the time.

Esmahan Razavi, with Champion Communications who is doing community engagement and Home Team Tour planning for Surge, said that supporting the accessible basketball event was a fulfillment of that community engagement.

“Calgarians, regardless of the quadrant they live in, regardless of their background, see themselves in the basketball team,” she said.

“And for us, this event with Akram Jomaa and Islamic Relief in support of International Day of Persons with Disabilities is really important, and that’s how we build inclusive cities by taking part in events like this.”

She said that the continued engagement throughout the hometown tour would continue to build the inclusive aspect of the team.

“Regardless of race, ability, gender, we are doing the work that we can, to build that inclusive aspect to the team,” Razavi said.

Photos of wheelchair accessible basketball

Volunteers and participants attach wheels to wheelchairs for accessible basketball on Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Members of the Calgary Police Service laugh alongside Dima Al-Dahouk during the training portion of Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Para-athlete Ousama Juha looks to pass the ball on Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Dima Al-Dahouk puts on a serious face as she prepares to drive down court on Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Participants battle over the ball on Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A participant catches a rebound on Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Ousama Juha deftly dodges out of an attempt to grab the ball, before passing it to another player for a shot on the net on Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A pair of CPS members battle it out over court position on Saturday, December 3, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY