Kids Playing Soccer - Photo courtesy of Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a motion Wednesday aimed at creating an expanded citywide sports program inclusive of people with physical disabilities.

The motion was introduced by Councilmen Paul Krekorian and Mitch O’Farrell on March 22.

“Today’s vote means that kids, transition-aged youth, adults and seniors from across Los Angeles will soon have the opportunity to participate in low-cost sports programming regardless of access needs, geography or income,” O’Farrell said after the vote.

The councilman, who played tennis and did gymnastics growing up, spoke about the positive impacts that sports can make on people’s lives, saying, “We know that uplifting athletics and exercise provides greater confidence, you learn about teamwork, you learn about how to resolve conflicts, you set the tone for an active life, and you become a more contributing member of a community and of a society at large.”

He added: “It’s our responsibility as elected officials to give this opportunity to all of our youth.”

Following the council’s vote Wednesday, the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Department on Disability will develop a citywide adaptive sports program. The departments will also issue recommendations for physical accessibility infrastructure improvements for existing facilities or those in development.

The motion also instructs the two departments to work with accessibility advocates in Los Angeles and across the United States on how to improve service delivery for adaptive sports citywide.

“We will continue to invest in recreation and parks to ensure that everyone in the city has those opportunities, but today’s motion makes sure we’re underlining `everybody.’ Everybody should participate in the sports that we offer in our parks,” said Krekorian.

Los Angeles’ PlayLA youth sports program, launched in November with support from the LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee, includes an adaptive sports program. In 2022-23, its programming for youth with physical disabilities will include sitting volleyball, para equestrian, adaptive swimming, para surfing, wheelchair basketball, adaptive skateboarding, goalball, adaptive athletics, wheelchair tennis and para canoe. Officials are considering including judo, archery, boccia, tee ball and climbing.

Ignacio “Nacho” Medrano , assistant coach of the U.S. National Amputee Soccer Team and board member of the American Amputee Soccer Association, joined Krekorian and O’Farrell outside City Hall after the vote Wednesday.

“My story is an example of how a program like this can help overcome life changing events,” Medrano said. “When I was 15, I was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly after that, six months later, my mom passed away. So I was in a very dark place emotionally and physically … programs like this helped me and I’m here today.”

Medrano said that after his surgery, he was “becoming a couch potato.”

“When I discovered amputee soccer, I was like a kid going into a candy story. I was just so happy,” he added.

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