Seventy-eight million Americans have some form of disability and more than one-third of those people do not have jobs, even though ninety percent want one. That is why, as a group, people with disabilities have the highest level of poverty of any segment of our population. Even if a person with a disability has earned a college degree, they have only a sixty percent chance of ever working in the United States; this is an American tragedy.
Why this has happened
The reason this sad state of affairs exists in America today, is because historically people with disabilities have been judged for what they cannot do, instead of being accepted for what they can do. Even with thirty years of significant educational and civil rights advancements; this centuries old ingrained habit of “soft discrimination” against people with disabilities still persists virtually everywhere, except in baseball.
Baseball and people with disabilities
Long before Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente or players from other countries gained acceptance in Major League Baseball, players with disabilities were proving themselves on the field at the professional level. Men such as Mordecai Brown, Peter Gray, Jon Curtis Brown, and William Ellsworth Hoy, were being judged exclusively upon their talents and applauded solely for their baseball exploits.
But, baseball’s unqualified commitment to talent and equality did not end when the game entered the modern era. Players with challenges such as Jim Abbott, Hall of Famer Ron Santo, Freddy Sanchez and dozens more, have continued to be given the opportunity to prove their abilities at the Major League level, every day. And, they have inspired us all.
So, it should come as no surprise that more young people, with severe disabilities, enjoy playing baseball than any other team sport in the world. On average, a quarter of a million children with challenges ranging from autism to spina bifida, play some form of baseball every day. From “Miracle Leagues” to Little League Baseball’s “Challenger Division,” children with disabilities enjoy the fun of baseball and learn all the lessons sports can instill, while teaching all of us the true meaning of perseverance. But, it’s not just about these children; it’s about much more.
Why this is important
The importance of baseball’s acceptance of players with disabilities cannot be understated. Not only is it a true example of America’s highest ideals and hopes for its people, but it can also serve as a shining model for how all Americans should judge people in general, and specifically how businesses should select employees. It should be, all about talent.
People with disabilities have no more appealing examples of who they are, and what they can accomplish when allowed to participate, than the exemplars on display in professional baseball. By simply telling these stories, PBATS hopes to help counteract the negative stereotypes that people with disabilities face daily, in the workplace and society. What Jackie Robinson did for the advancement of African Americans, telling the stories of baseball players with disabilities can do for people with disabilities, nationwide.
Why PBATS is involved in this issue
For the past twenty years PBATS has taken a leading role in communicating some of the most important issues facing our society with remarkable effect. From drug addition, to spit tobacco, to the need for diet and exercise, PBATS has used its position as a leading health authority to affect not only the athletes in their care, but also the community around them. In all of these cases PBATS took a stand that was not then popular, but eventually became a mainstream issue, because PBATS and MLB had the courage to stand up.
For over one hundred years baseball’s athletic trainers have seen, first hand, the value that players with disabilities have brought to the game. As the only medical authority in baseball with this unique view of these men, both on and off the field, PBATS is in a distinctive position to tell their stories. By doing this, PBATS will not only bring honor to the game, but will also help a growing population of people gain acceptance for what they can bring to the game of life.
What the PBATS “Ability Transcends Challenges” (ATC) program hopes to accomplish
This program is designed to educate the American people about the role that people with disabilities have played throughout baseball’s history, while speaking to the important lessons of inclusion and the need to harness this valuable source of American manpower. Our ultimate goal is to do nothing less than change America’s perception about the value of people with disabilities, by demonstrating that truth using baseball.