Rio Olympics: Health Concerns for Disabled Sailors?

Rio Olympics: Health Concerns for Disabled Sailors? Should athletes be concerned

Commentary: Concern of Athletes at 2016 Rio Olympics-Paralympics.

By Urban Miyares, Co-Founder, Challenged America Program

Rio 2016For athletes there is no question being invited to compete and represent their countries at the Olympics/Paralympics is not only an honor and privilege, but also a testimony to their hard work to achieve excellence. However, in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics & Paralympics, I have concern about the health and well-being of the athletes with the reports of pollution and contamination of the waters sailors will be competing in.

Having not read any reports, on the medical side, of health dangers for competing in Rio waters, it has prompted me to write about this concern in hope those in the medical profession will make comment, and to bring public awareness to this matter.

Many people with and without disabilities have compromised immune systems, often triggered by injury, disease, medical procedures and medications. Most are aware of their restrictions and need to avoid contact with or consumption of many types of foods and liquids, as well as other contaminates that are in water, soil and even the air. Others, including athletes, may not know of their restrictions or even realize they have a compromised immune system until a health crisis arises.

As a person with a disability and having a compromised immune system, if I were fortunate to be considered a member of the U.S. Olympics/Paralympics Team in sailing, as an example, I would have to decline my Team position due to medical concern.

Such damage to a person’s health, with a compromised immune system, can create an immediate medical emergency, with devastating effect, and also initiate or trigger a medical condition that may not be detected until month or even years later.

It is with this that I hope the U.S. Olympic Team and that of the other countries sending athletes to Rio publicly recognize this problem, and provide a medical assurance that competing (in the sailing venues) is safe during the games and will not affect their medical condition afterwards.

Let me know your thoughts and opinion.

Making Your Vessel Accessible for the Disabled

Making Your Vessel Accessible for the Disabled
By Urban Miyares, Co-Founder, Challenged America Program

“Urban – My wife now has MS and uses a wheelchair. How can I make our 30 foot sailboat more wheelchair friendly so she can continue to be active as crew and enjoy being on the water? Jim L.”

Over the years we’ve received many such requests, from both sail and power boat owners wanting to make their vessels more accessible and accommodating for themselves and others with disabilities. As a matter of fact, just in the past couple of weeks I’ve had 3 such requests – which prompted me to write this blog.

Making Your Vessel Accessible for the Disabled
If you have a physical, mobility or sensory challenge (whether permanent or temporary) or diagnosed with a hidden medical condition, you’ll immediately discover how unfriendly most boats are. Their design is not accommodating to the disabled. However you can make your sail or power boat more welcoming and comfortable to crew members and passengers with impairments.
Following is but a beginning outline to help guide you in making your vessel more accessible to those with physical challenges. Continue reading

Challenged America 2015 A New Beginning

Co-Founder Speaks Out: Challenged America 2015 A New Beginning

As we begin the 38th year of Challenged America, we are proud of the many accomplishments made in introducing sailing as a successful therapeutic activity and a stepping-stone for the disabled to [once again] enter into the workplace.

With changing times and the 3 or 4 key Challenged America financial supporters no longer with us (having passed away or now unable to help, due to health), dramatic changes were in order, and the charity’s (Disabled Businesspersons Association) board of directors is currently in the reinventing phase for the Challenged America Program, as well as the four other programs in the charity.

The question posed to the board is:   “If you could start all over again, given what you already know, what would you do differently?”

Experience is a great educator, and having been on the cutting-edge in techniques and practices, adaptations and accommodations to equalize – for all – the ability to safely sail and race a vessel independently alongside and against other (able-bodied) sailors, in both small and larger vessels, in inland, coastal and ocean passages, has taught us much. Today, many around the world use the experience and adventures of sailors in the Challenged America Program as their template and protocol.

Right now we’re seeking the donation of a larger offshore sailing yacht, whether classic, racer or racer-cruiser, able to accommodate a crew of 12 to 25 (or more) sailors.

From this donation, the type of educational, team-building and life-enriching adventures will be plotted by the board…to include, but not be limited to having a paid staff, interns, structured educational programs for Program participants, recreational and occupational therapists, educators and other professionals, and loved ones of the disabled

An advisory group, to include DBA board members, will be meeting in the first quarter of 2015 to plot out the future direction for Challenged America, and their resulting recommendations will be posted afterwards.

Do you have any thoughts, suggestions or recommendations to give to this advisory group – related to the mission of increasing the successful workplace outcomes of the disabled, through the Challenged America Program?

Do you know of or have a larger sailing vessel that could satisfy, either immediately or in the very near future, the needs of the Challenged America Program?

Have thoughts of a joint venture or collaboration?

Looking forward to your response and how you can contribute to the new adventures in the Challenged America Program.

Email your questions, comments and suggestions to

Thank You!

The Raw Beauty Project Empowers Disabled Women

When she was 19, Wendy Crawford’s life as a model changed forever, after a car accident left her a quadriplegic. Thirty years later, she’s not only posing in front of the camera, but empowering other women with disabilities to discover their own Raw Beauty.

The co-creator of The Raw Beauty Project NYC told that after her accident — she was hit by a drunk driver — she initially remained optimistic that she could have a future in modeling with a disability, but was disappointed that the industry wasn’t as receptive to the idea.

Wendy Crawford

Walter Chin
Wendy Crawford is one of the people behind The Raw Beauty Project NYC, a photo exhibition designed to empower women with disabilities.

Crawford, now 49, went on to found the mobileWOMEN advocacy group for women in wheelchairs in 2002, and in 2006 she helped created “Uncensored Life: Raw Beauty,” a Miami exhibit featuring photos of 20 disabled women that aimed to create new perceptions, shatter stereotypes and raise awareness for women with physical challenges.

“[Models] become empowered by it, and realize there are so many other things they can do,” Crawford said.

This year, partnered with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to develop The Raw Beauty Project, a spinoff that features 20 women with disabilities to emphasize their “beauty, empowerment and sensuality,” according to the project’s website. Showcased last month at ACA Galleries in Manhattan, photographs from the series have been sold to benefit the Reeve Foundation, which raises money and awareness for people living with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.

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