To promote inclusivity in sport for all, especially US athletes with intellectual disability.
Athletes Without Limits began with one athlete who wouldn’t let intellectual disability stand in the way of his quest to become a world champion. In five years, we’ve grown to nine sports and an ever-increasing number of athletes with a shared dream to reach their highest levels.
Here in the US, Athletes Without Limits helps athletes identify coaching, training and competition opportunities at the national, regional and local level with a focus on the integration of athletes with intellectual disability into mainstream and Paralympic sport. While our athletes are from all over the country, we’ve established training hubs in Washington DC & Florida (Rowing), Georgia (Swimming), Oregon (Skiing), Texas (Basketball) and Virginia (Tennis).
The startup of Athletes Without Limits in 2009 as the US member of INAS made it possible for US athletes with intellectual disability to compete for the first time in open international competition including Inas Global Games & World Championships and International Paralympic Committee events, including the Paralympic Games. Athletes Without Limits oversees the selection process, registration and travel arrangements for US teams traveling to INAS competitions.
Inas & Paralympic Athlete Eligibility
Athletes Without Limits is responsible for determining whether US athletes with intellectual impairment are eligible for Inas, Paralympic and other international competitions. This lengthly process involves intensive reviews of an athlete’s assessments by professional staff. Since 2009, we have increased the number of Inas/Paralympic-eligible US athletes from 1 to over 150.
Dreams Come True
Michael Murray was the first American with intellectual impairment to earn a spot on the U.S. Paralympic team and compete at the London 2012 Paralympics. We look forward to more of our athletes qualifying for the 2016 Paralympic Games, including medal contender and high school running phenom Michael Brannigan.
Nine Sports and Growing
Athletes Without Limits currently promotes athletes in: Athletics (Track & Field), Basketball (new in 2015), Cycling, Rowing, Skiing (under development), Swimming, Table tennis, Taeikwondo (new in 2015) and Tennis. We also have athletes competing in mainstream Triathlon.
Additionally, we actively advocate and educate and stood in strong support of the 2009 international vote to re-include athletes with intellectual disability in Paralympic competition. Our advocacy work also involves working with event promoters to include a class for athletes with intellectual disability (similar to an age or gender breakdown for award purposes) at mainstream sporting events so that athletes are not always in isolated/segregated events.
Integration Leads to Acceleration
Our model promotes excellence in sport through inclusion and integration of athletes with disability into mainstream training and competition. Our efforts to improve opportunities for athletes with intellectual disability have engaged, inspired and involved athletes of all ability and background, including armed services veterans and active duty members, professional athletes, novices and high schoolers.
We focus on the athlete, not the disability.
Inas, the International federation for para-athletes with intellectual disability, is an association of 87 countries that manages eligibility requirements for athletes with an intellectual disability and organizes 10-15 regional and world championship events yearly including the Global Games. INAS is a founding member of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and is worked with the IPC on the re-inclusion of athletes with intellectual disability into Paralympic competitions including the 2012 London Paralympics.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is “the global governing body of the Paralympic Movement. The IPC organizes the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games, and serves as the International Federation for nine sports, for which it supervises and co-ordinates the World Championships and other competitions. The IPC is committed to enabling Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and to developing sport opportunities for all persons with a disability from the beginner to elite level. In addition, the IPC aims to promote the Paralympic values, which include courage, determination, inspiration and equality.”
U.S. Paralympics is a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the US member of the IPC. U.S. Paralympics oversees Paralympic training, programs and competitions in the United States as well as Team USA selection and travel to IPC competitions abroad —including the Paralympic Games. Currently there are new Paralympic opportunities for athletes with intellectual disability in three sports: Swimming, Table Tennis and Track & Field.
US athletes with intellectual disability wishing to compete in Paralympic competition should begin by working with Athletes Without Limits to complete the INAS eligibility application as the first step toward Paralympic Classification.