bmobile and PlayAble Caribbean bring disability awareness to students

Port of Spain, Trinidad, December 6, 2016
Asking “What is normal?”, Atiba Antoine, a Director of PlayAble Caribbean explained to a roomful of Chaguanas South Secondary School students that there is a thin line between disability and ability, and persons with disabilities can do just about everything others do, just differently. Antoine continued, “It is therefore vital that everyone of us learns to include persons with disabilities in everyday activities, including sports.” PlayAble Caribbean is a non-profit social venture which designs adapted-sports programmes for disabled persons and trains and certifies coaches, parents and volunteers to build capacity locally for a totally inclusive society. Antoine was speaking to students from forms 1 to 5 recently during a school visit tour sponsored by the bmobile Foundation to raise awareness of the rights of disabled persons.
Camille Campbell, TSTT’s VP Marketing said, “Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities indicates all state parties should recognize the right of persons with disabilities to participate in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport on an equal basis with others. The bmobile Foundation is pleased to support programmes like this which raise awareness of the rights of persons with disabilities and which encourage their full participation and inclusion in society.”
Antoine indicated that it is important to target school children because real change happens at their level. “They are the upcoming generation and if change happens at their level, this will auger well for our country’s future development.” he said. The educational visit consisted of an interactive discussion on the differences between ‘abled’ and disabled persons and encouraged the students to think about the ways that different sports can be adapted to allow persons with disabilities to participate. Antoine invited the students to take part in demonstrations of some adapted-sports including football and goalball using acoustic balls so blind players can hear the ball, seated volleyball, track and field games of shot-put, discus and javelin, wheelchair tennis and “jack’ ball.
The demonstrations were well received at the school which has a 100% CSEC pass rate in Physical Education and Sport (PE). Many of the attending were PE students, including Alisha Samuel, Faith Stewart and Shivana Maharaj. All three shared that the morning session was very informative and interesting and they learnt to appreciate their body parts and to not judge persons with disabilities. While none had considered playing games with disabled persons before, they all remarked that they now felt confident to do so, with Stewart noting, “What stood out for me is how much a person can do despite a disability.” Samuel plans to have a career in nursing and added, “The information I learnt will help me in my future career when working with disabled patients.”
Gemma Ramkallawan, the school’s PE Teacher, was especially appreciative of the information shared. Ramkallawan spoke about her disappointment that a former blind student was prevented by her mother from participating in PE because of the disability. “I would like parents to understand that having a disability does not mean a child cannot participate in sports. There are so many benefits to playing sports such as fitness, mental and social development, including teamwork, cooperation, self esteem and self-motivation.”, she said. Ramkallawan indicated she is now more knowledgeable after the morning’s presentation and better equipped to encourage other parents to allow their children with disabilities to be included in sports, and said, “I would not let an opportunity like this slip by me again. Who knows, this blind student could have excelled at sports if given the chance.”
Antoine, who conducted two other bmobile Foundation-sponsored presentations that day at Palmiste and Enterprise Government Primary Schools, agreed that teachers are up to the challenge but the parents of disabled children are often an obstacle to their inclusion in sports because they are overprotective. He said, “With the support of organizations such as the bmobile Foundation, PlayAble Caribbean aims to continue to provide opportunities that will get our disabled children off from the sidelines and into the game.”

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