Erica Gavel, the new chair of the Canadian Paralympic Athletes’ Council and a Paralympic athlete herself, believes that there is a significant gap between committing to inclusion and actually implementing it.
She is particularly concerned about the lack of true inclusion for Para athletes at the university level in Canada.
Despite Canada priding itself on being an inclusive country, Gavel feels that Para athletes are unable to participate in university Para sport athletic programs without having to move overseas or to the United States.
In order for inclusion to be achieved at the university level, Gavel believes that universities need to make small changes, such as posting information on their website or providing a welcoming note for disabled athletes on campus detailing how to access athletic support.
Furthermore, Gavel notes that Para athletes require a professional training environment, a formal competitive framework within university conferences, and official sports championships.
However, most universities in Canada do not offer a true student-athlete experience for Para athletes.
Gavel’s journey to this point has not been an easy one.
She was a starting guard for the University of Saskatchewan women’s basketball team when she tore the cartilage off the femur and tibia of her left knee during a two-on-two drill in August 2012.
Despite her injury, she continued to compete and eventually became a Paralympian.