Envisioning Innovation at the Intersection of Sport and Disability: A Blueprint for American Higher Education


  • Derek Van Rheenen University of California Berkeley
  • Matt Grigorieff University of California Berkeley
  • Jessica N. Adams




Higher Education, Goalball, Sport, Disability, Innovation


In January 2013, the United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights issued policy guidelines to ensure that students with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in extracurricular athletic activities in public elementary, secondary and postsecondary schools.   To date, few educational institutions, particularly within higher education, have met this national need. This paper describes a pilot course offered at  a large public university on the west coast of the United States that combines learning about disability studies while participating in goalball, a sport designed for individuals with visual impairments. The implementation of this pilot program highlights the challenges and opportunities for educational institutions to offer students with disabilities, particularly students with visual impairments, equal opportunities to participate in athletics.  The paper envisions innovation at the intersection of sport and disability and offers a possible blueprint for other colleges and universities that seek to create similar extra or co-curricular opportunities in line with the OCR’s policy guidelines.  


Author Biography

Derek Van Rheenen, University of California Berkeley

Derek Van Rheenen’s research interests include cultural studies of play, games and sport, the connections between sports, learning and schooling, and the role of intercollegiate athletics in the American university system. A former Academic All-American and professional soccer player, Van Rheenen teaches courses on sport, culture, and education. In 1998 he received the Outstanding Dissertation Award in the Graduate School of Education, UC Berkeley. Professor Van Rheenen was named a Chancellor's Public Scholar in 2012-2013 at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Van Rheenen directs the Cultural Studies of Sport in Education Master's degree concentration for students studying the intersections of school and sport. He also directs the Athletic Study Center at U.C. Berkeley.

Dr. Van Rheenen has been a Visiting Professor at the Universite de Lille and the International University of Monaco, is an invited speaker at national and international conferences, and is regularly interviewed about the role of sport in society and the intersections of sport and schooling, particularly American college sports.


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