Defining Adaptive Allyship: the WAS Community Weighs In on What it Means to Be an #AdaptiveAlly

Throughout the month of May, we asked members of the Wasatch Adaptive Sports community about adaptive allyship and what it meant to them as we welcomed new members into WAS’s community of monthly donors providing ongoing support of our students.

What does it mean for someone to be an Adaptive Ally? What does allyship look like?

Sabra (WAS student): “a spirit of empathy as opposed to sympathy.”

Matthew (WAS board member, physical therapist): “I view being an adaptive ally thorough the lens of a health care provider. Therefore I see an adaptive ally as someone who enables and does not put limitations on individuals. Someone who is a resource in the community to improve adaptive access, break down barriers and ultimate assist improving peoples quality of life. Allyship can be as simple as educating yourself on adaptive recreation or how people with disabilities want to be treated. Or as involved as going out and volunteering with an adaptive program.”

Mary Beth (WAS parent, monthly donor): “To us, an Adaptive Ally means making sure we consider differing abilities when engaging in just about anything. It means being curious so we can continue to learn to support each other.”

Elena (WAS student): “Valuing the knowledge and experience that disabled people hold.”

Ryan (WAS staff member): “To me, being an Adaptive Ally means sharing in the collective spirit that is passion for the outdoors, while recognizing the value that comes from perspectives foreign to our own in this space. Every human is uniquely skilled and resourced to make an impact.”

TyAnne (WAS board member and parent): “To me, an ally is someone who will do the work with you to change a situation that desperately needs improvement. It’s more than a friend. It’s more than an advocate. It’s someone who isn’t afraid of facing uncomfortable truths and working with you in the same cause. This goes beyond lip service and nice platitudes. An adaptive ally is someone who will do something in their sphere to improve the landscape of how adaptive needs are met. Maybe that’s done with financial support. But it could also be changing the way those they associate with see ableism. It could be asking businesses or schools in their community to make services and programs more available and accessible. Being an adaptive ally is about action and effort.”

What would you say to anyone who is a current monthly donor or interested in becoming one? How important is their ongoing support of WAS students?

TyAnne (WAS board member and parent): “Everyone thinks they want to change the world. It’s a nice sentiment. WAS monthly donors will not change the world on a macro level in one month. But they will change a life forever over the course of a program or season. Your monthly donation changes the connectedness of individuals who might have limited means or social support… When that one participant gains more confidence because of the program you support they will reenter society on a different level adding their voice and contributing to society in a way no one else can. By connecting these participants, you give hope, eliminate depression, decrease the likelihood of many of the negative social ills associated with disability life. By being a WAS donor, you are you are helping someone take the -dis out of disability. Ultimately, you have changed the world. Not many people can say that.”

Mary Beth (WAS parent, monthly donor): “Ongoing support to WAS students is so important to us because Bear’s participation with WAS will be ongoing. We hope he wants to ride his bike and snowboard with WAS for many, many years to come. We want to make sure WAS has the funding for the equipment they need to provide stellar experiences for everyone, to continue to hire the best instructors around, and to continue to grow and set the standard for what supporting the adaptive community looks like.”

Matthew (WAS board member, physical therapist): “THANK YOU! I am personally and professionally extremely fond of the WAS organization, the folks that run it, and the quality of the services they provide. No gift is too small! I would urge you to see where your money is or would be going by reaching out to the organization to interact at a higher level. I greatly enjoy seeing smiles on the faces of WAS participants, if you enjoy seeing smiling faces you should donate too!”

Ryan (WAS staff member): “Wasatch Adaptive introduces recreation to people regardless of what their goals may be. We refer to the greater WAS community as a family because folks tend to stick around. The contagious culture trademarked by Peter Mandler and nurtured by this family of students, staff, and volunteers leads in many cases, to years of ongoing participation. WAS envisions a world where people experience the power of recreation whenever and however they choose. Your support will help us reduce the barriers that do exist, as we make beautiful memories together in motion along the way.”