Quality of Life Grantee Spotlight: Salisbury University

For the past 18 years, Dr. Dean Ravizza has hosted a two-hour adaptive learning lab for local K-12 students. Although the program reached hundreds of participants, it had limitations.


“We were able to offer wonderful programming for students with intellectual disabilities, but children with physical disabilities didn’t have the same opportunities,” says Ravizza, professor of physical education teacher education (PETE) and adapted physical education at Salisbury University (SU).

To address the challenge, Ravizza applied for a $25,000 Direct Effect Quality of Life Grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to purchase eight sport wheelchairs and increase the availability and accessibility of adaptive sports for the university and the local community.

“A primary goal is helping SU’s physical education students learn to work with adaptive sports in a hands-on fashion,” says Ravizza. “These future teachers can then go into a school system and push for the inclusion of adaptive sports in general education programming.”

The new equipment allowed for the addition of four wheelchair sports (basketball, tennis, lacrosse and rugby) into the university’s adaptive sports curriculum. To date, over 100 PETE students have used the wheelchairs as part of their coursework. Many students noted the four-week adaptive sports module as one of their most impactful learning experiences.

“Many students commented that researching and teaching adaptive sports increased their knowledge and confidence to include adaptive sports in their future general physical education settings,” says Ravizza. Several PETE students have also integrated adaptive sports into the weekly lessons they deliver at SU to local homeschool students, two of whom have spina bifida.

“We tend to make accommodations for the student with the disability to participate the way their same-age peers are. But what we don’t do is flip that and have the general population participate like their same-age peers with disabilities,” says Ravizza. “I want to prepare my students to be able to do both when they are in their own classrooms.”

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The grant also allowed for the introduction of wheelchair sports into the university’s intramural sports schedule of events for the first time. To help build awareness, Ravizza coordinated two adaptive sports nights attended by over 50 SU students with and without physical disabilities. None of the university students without disabilities had participated in adaptive sports before these events. Three additional nights are scheduled for the spring semester, and Ravizza plans to organize other events like pop-up wheelchair basketball tournaments to give more students access to the sport.

“For me, one of the driving forces of this grant is how we can impact the greater community,” says Ravizza. In addition to adding the wheelchairs to the Friday adaptive learning labs, he has found other ways for local school-aged students to access this equipment.

Over 45 physical education teachers and assistants from across Maryland’s Wicomico County school system attended a professional development workshop Ravizza presented on including adaptive sports in the PE curriculum. The program focused on creating more equitable learning opportunities for local children with physical disabilities. He also helped co-teach two wheelchair basketball lessons with local elementary school teachers to fifth graders, including two with physical disabilities. Three other area schools are also interested in offering co-taught adaptive lessons.

“The benefits are manyfold. The inclusion of adaptive sports into the physical education curriculum helps increase awareness among students without disabilities of the strengths and abilities of students with disabilities,” says Ravizza.

Along with the wheelchairs themselves, the grant allows for purchasing spare parts to keep them in good condition. Ravizza hopes to continue to add more wheelchairs and a trailer to the program and introduce wheelchair football.

“I believe the teaching opportunities are endless, both on campus and off,” says Ravizza.

“I am so grateful to the Reeve Foundation for helping us get this program off the ground. As we expose more current and future teachers to adaptive sports, they will go into the world as advocates and introduce the programs to others.”

About the Author - Reeve Staff

This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to information@christopherreeve.org

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $10,000,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.