Ball playing sports facilities and play spaces, including community fields, courts and courses, receive the greatest funding, attention, promotional support and real estate in our communities. These “mainstream” play spaces do not mainstream. They exclude the differently able, the physically and cognitively challenged, the mobility impaired and even mixed age and gender families.
Stevie, age 12, uses a wheelchair and his 10-year-old brother Andy does not, and with their seven-year-old sister they’d like to go out and play ball together at a community playfield or playcourt on a nice Sunday at a nearby park facility like other kids without waiting for a program and adult supervision. They cannot. There are no inclusive mainstream sports that accomplish the matter of addressing the needs of the physically challenged. Nor their families. There are no drop-in, walk-on wheelchair accommodating ball-playing sports in the community. There should be. We should recognize the facility shortages and the missing venues which bring about exclusion. Our community sports are composed of competing teams; most require physical contact, strength, size or stamina; they require comparable age participation and alignment and are gender exclusionary. The three siblings have no play-together opportunity participating in mainstream sports and games in the community. Bankshot is the exception – designed to be – in outreach to the differently able.
Programs, however excellently conducted, cannot replace facilities that are always walk-on, drop-in available and inclusive not merely accessible. Other youngsters do not have to wait till next Thursday for an activity or program that provides inclusive play. A fundamental requirement is that communities offer ball-playing sports fields and play spaces for the inclusion of the differently able, of the physically and cognitively challenged, and all individuals with disabilities, and that the sport be self-competitive, not played against others but like Bankshot (designed for that purpose), like golf and bowling, energizing and uniting a community by providing alongside play. Inclusive means alongside-play - equality achieved not by requiring rivals to defeat. But rather by providing a venue that unites and socializes the entire community at play. And that starts with the understanding that diversity is accomplished together side-by-side and by friendship, not face-to-face rivalry.
Companionable participation also attracts and brings about diversity. No opponents are necessary; certainly, not in every one of our mainstream sports venues communities provide today. A sport requiring no offense or defense permits full participation; one takes on the challenge of the court, not one another. Stevie and his family have just what they’re looking for when provided with inclusive participation particularly at a sports facility which needs no aggression and no need to defeat opponents. Self-competitive mainstreaming should be the first order of business when we plan our parks and their amenities. Bankshot in particular inspired by universal design was developed for the express purpose of alongside non-exclusionary play based upon achieving total mix diversity.