The Whole Person, community partners launch accessible sports roundtable

The Whole Person ice skating blind, low vision experience

Blind Low Vision Experience is a peer support group coordinated by Sheila Styron, Blindness Low Vision Specialist for The Whole Person (third from left). In addition to ice skating, the group enjoys tandem bike riding, “Bowling Blind,” and hiking among many other sports and recreation activities.

Wheel It Forward is an annual wheelchair tennis tournament in Kansas City. Photo shows members of The Whole Person’s competitive team, No Coast Wheelchair Tennis, in April 2019.

Leaders and players with AS-GKC partner organization, Special Olympics Kansas.

The Whole Person formed a Power Soccer team in the past year.

AS-GKC partner Midwest Adaptive Sports offers wheelchair rugby.

Midwest Adaptive Sports is a sub-grantee of The Whole Person’s Healthy Communities grant and AS-GKC founding partner. Here the organization presents its diversity and inclusion program, Educate the Educators, for physical education students at West Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas. Students with and without disabilities experience what it is like to play basketball in a wheelchair.

Midwest Adaptive Sports is a sub-grantee of The Whole Person’s Healthy Communities grant and AS-GKC founding partner. Here the organization presents its diversity and inclusion program, Educate the Educators, for physical education students at West Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas. Students with and without disabilities experience what it is like to play basketball in a wheelchair.

Midwest Adaptive Sports is a sub-grantee of The Whole Person’s Healthy Communities grant and AS-GKC founding partner. Here the organization presents its diversity and inclusion program, Educate the Educators, for physical education students at West Middle School in Kansas City, Kansas. Students with and without disabilities experience what it is like to play basketball in a wheelchair.

The Whole Person has sponsored an annual Day at the Lake for people with disabilities for many years.

Accessible Sports-Greater Kansas City Regional Roundtable committee fine-tunes the Accessible Venues Survey in February 2019.

The Whole Person’s Recreation Outreach Coordinator Rick Haith (front right) with adaptive archery enthusiasts.

The Whole Person’s All Abilities Tennis program welcomes players with all types of disabilities and players without disabilities.


What are the options for a child with a spinal cord injury who watches her siblings play tennis but never gets invited to hit the ball? Or a teenager with a cognitive disability who wants to swim or shoot an arrow, or join a soccer team coached by someone who knows how to make it a welcoming, affirming experience? Or a former downhill skier who does not want his age and blindness to keep him off the slopes?

Until fall 2018, there was no central hub for answers to questions like these, and many other needs of people of all ages, with all types of disabilities, who want to participate in accessible/adaptive recreational activities or sports.

As observed and experienced by The Whole Person and other accessible sports stakeholders, the Greater Kansas City area has long lacked a coordinated, ongoing, community-wide effort to identify and then address community needs, such as:

  • Not enough accessible and affordable sports and recreation facilities and programs.
  • Hard-to-find adaptive/accessible sports and recreation facilities and programs.
  • Lack of trainers and coaches who make sports welcoming and safe for people with disabilities.
  • Lack of transportation to adaptive/accessible sports and recreation activities.
  • Unnecessary duplication of efforts in some sectors and gaps in others.
  • Shortage of resources, such as lendable sports wheelchairs and other expensive adaptive equipment.
  • No central communications hub to facilitate sharing of resources and information.
  • Lack of a shared, community-wide accessible/adaptive sports calendar.
  • No lasting structure for multi-sector, bi-state collaboration among accessible sports stakeholders.

For 41 years, The Whole Person has connected people with all types of disabilities to the resources they need to make choices and live independently in the community, including participation in accessible/adaptive sports and recreation.

We developed the concept for a new, metro-wide collaboration called Accessible Sports-Greater Kansas City (AS-GKC) in late 2017 to begin addressing the needs listed above. Health Forward Foundation supported the project’s first year through a Healthy Communities grant in 2018.

Hands down, the outstanding achievement of the project’s first year was confirming that diverse, multi-sector stakeholders were as ready as The Whole Person for a collaboration that REALLY WORKS and has the potential for lasting positive impact on healthy living opportunities for people with disabilities in Greater Kansas City.

Representatives of more than 25 nonprofit organizations, agencies, and businesses who had never before been “in the room” with each other, gathered together last fall to form the AS-GKC Regional Roundtable.

Roundtable partners — from city and county Parks and Recreation departments in Kansas and Missouri to KC Corporate Challenge, Midwest Adaptive Sports, and Special Olympics — meet quarterly to share ideas and resources and to work on projects that include a shared calendar and website, www.AS-GKC.net, a Community Gaps Survey (so we can hear from affected populations about their experiences and needs), and an Accessible Venues Survey.

AS-GKC partners will publish a three-year Accessible Sports Action Plan in summer 2019 based on what we learned this year and what the partners want to accomplish by 2022.

Along with regional roundtable participants, The Whole Person believes the next two years are critical for cementing and continuing to grow the Accessible Sports-GKC partnership as the go-to hub for information and access to healthy recreational/sports activities for Greater Kansas City residents with disabilities.

We find ourselves in a unique space and time, with momentum for growing the collaboration and confronting challenges together, so one of our region’s most underserved populations has greater access to healthy living opportunities through sports and recreation.

You can follow The Whole Person at their social accounts:

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Health Forward Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact Health Forward Communications Officer Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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