By Hanna Motorina and Vira Kravchuk
LCC Moose basketball team players learning to play basketball from a wheelchair user perspective.
Photo by Muzhytskyi Mykola
LCC’s most recent Moose basketball game had two winners.
LCC community had the chance to spectate the LCC Moose Basketball team use wheelchairs and compete against a team who plays regularly in wheelchairs, team Atrama from Vilnius. The Moose players lost the game but the team and the spectators won a sense that people with disabilities are regular people who love the sport of basketball.
The Moose players, well acquainted with Michaelsen gymnasium, found out that using a wheelchair, even on their familiar court, proved to be tough. Needless to say, these talented athletes, many who tower over their classmates when they are standing, lost to the players who use wheelchairs on a daily basis, 30:9.
The goal of the Nov. 27 game basketball was to raise awareness about people with disabilities, an initiative of the “Story in my eyes” student organization, according to leader Kateryna Hlova. Klaipeda Rotary club supported the initiative.
Her group organized the event, “A brave step into the world,” to encourage people to think become sensitive to issues confronting people with disabilities.
“We want everyone to treat people with disabilities fairly,” she said, adding that a visually impaired friend of hers has difficulty at bus stops because other passengers ignore him.
“We hope the event helped change the attitude toward people with disabilities,” she said.
“I have never been to this kind of event,” said Georgian student Zaqaria Chikadze. Chikadze knows a bit about disadvantaged people and volunteers at an orphanage. He liked the event and said the spectators saw the men in wheelchairs as athletes first--people first and secondly, people with disabilities.
“These people are the usual people,” said Zaqaria and emphasized that the disability shouldn’t define anyone.
Kotryna Guobyte, a Lithuanian student who once worked with disabled children, said that she was glad that there was no pity in the game. The athletes competed with enjoyment.
“It was all real and everyone had fun and it was different, but not that different,” she said. “It was just a normal game.”
She went on to say that pity can be a common reaction toward people with disabilities when a more enlightened reaction is to see the person first, not the disability.
After the game, the event continued with a panel discussion including Klaipeda Rotary Club leader Raimonda Cejauskiene, LCC senior from Albania Mateo Lamnije and basketball players and wheelchair users Nerijus Venchkus from Vilnius and Augustas Navickas from Klaipeda.
The players talked told about the impact of sport on their lives, their achievements, difficulties, and their wish for the more aware society that does not treat people with disabilities awkwardly.
“When you get injured, your world just gets crushed,” said Nerijus. “You have to start at the very beginning. People become afraid of your look. And when you start to do sports, it really helps you. Playing in a wheelchair takes a couple of years to get used to, but it is worth it. People from disabilities also could do a lot of stuff; we just need better access to it.”
Augustas, a player and a wheelchair user from Klaipeda agreed.
“If you are lazy, it is no matter if you are disabled or not,” said Augustas. “I used to play professional basketball, but since 2014 I do the rowing. I took part in the Paralympics game in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and now I am aiming to go to my second Paralympics game of 2020 in Tokyo. I have my qualification in this spring and I am training very hard now.”
As for LCC students, “The Story in My Eyes” group conducted a survey and found that most students consider people with disabilities as “not different." Group organizers consider that finding another win for the LCC community.
On December 2nd the student initiative “Story in my eyes” will present their research findings at Neufeld Auditorium at 17:30.