This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Exercise and Fitness After Spinal Cord Injury. Michael Boninger M.D, researcher, discusses Collaborating on Accessibility - The Thelma Lovett YMCA.

Our YMCA wouldn’t be accessible now if it wasn’t for some local people who said, “We need a place to exercise.” They brought it to the Y, and then a great partnership happened that way.

What happened a long time ago with the Thelma Lovett YMCA was that we were approached because the place where our basketball team was practicing was not adequate. A local rehab facility had said you can practice here, but there were poles in the middle of the basketball court, and it was only a half court. They were practicing at a local high school, but the high school needed to take over their practice time. And so they came to me with this.

Someone connected me to the YMCA, and I met their director, who was just like, “We need to do something about this.” And so we found court time at one of the Ys in town, and then they said, “We’re going to build a new one. Let’s figure out how we can do this in a way that makes sense.” We wrote a grant to the Nielson Foundation that paid for the initial basketball chairs and some of the exercise equipment.

So it was really a true community effort where we got a foundation involved, the local Y involved, as well as some very motivated wheelchair basketball players. And that led to what you’ve seen today. It’s always about one or two people who say, “This isn’t good enough.” It wasn’t … the sled hockey team in town was started by a mom who said, “Why isn’t there a sled hockey team in town?” I need my child to be able to get involved and exercise and do sports. That particular individual has a Paralympic gold medal around their neck.

The basketball courts are the exact same thing, basketball players. And so I think that if you’re sitting some place right now and feel like there isn’t access, accessible equipment, research it. Make sure that you’re right. We don’t want to duplicate efforts because we need everyone rowing in the same direction. But if you find out that it doesn’t exist, then talk to your local doctor, get a couple of people involved, and I’m betting you can make change.

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