Celebrating Disability Pride Month in Tennis
What do Disability Pride Month and the world of tennis have in common?
To begin with, July is a big month for both.
Disability Pride Month Is celebrated in July, commemorating the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed into law on July 26, 1990. The passage of this law granted persons with disabilities the civil rights that other US citizens have, and it was a major step in defining and preventing discrimination towards people with disabilities. Disability Pride Month celebrates the identities, culture, and accomplishments of people with disabilities. It reminds us that having a disability is not shameful and that persons with disabilities can take pride in ourselves, in who we are, and in how we live life. We have the same rights to education, employment, and access to businesses, government, and all other areas of life as everyone else in this country.
In the world of tennis, July is grass court season. Wimbledon headlines the month, and immediately following on the this side of the pond, is the only ATP tournament played on grass – The Hall of Fame Tournament in Newport, RI.
At the end of the tournament is the induction ceremony, when tennis greats are honored by through enshrinement in the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Ordinarily, Disability Pride Month and the July activities of the world of tennis are parallel events. But not this year. This year the two events converge, and that is a very good thing indeed.
This year, both players being enshrined in the Hall of Fame are wheelchair players. Talk about Disability Pride!
Esther Vergeer from the Netherlands, who has been described as the best wheelchair tennis player ever, has finally been retired long enough to receive this honor. Her tennis resume is impressive and would be for any professional player, with 21 grand slam singles titles, four Paralympic gold medals in singles, and more. She went undefeated in singles for 10 straight years - something no other professional tennis player has ever done! Martina Navratilova went undefeated for two years, and that was significant.
Esther ended her professional career with a 470-game winning streak. She has often been called the most dominant player in professional sports. Please note, this is not the most dominant tennis player, woman, or wheelchair player. She has been considered the most dominant player in professional sports.
Rick Draney began playing wheelchair tennis in 1984 in the Quad Open Division and wasinstrumental in the development of the quad division in the United States and internationally. When the International Tennis Federation officially established the Quad Open Division, Draney earned the ranking of number one in singles and doubles for more than 100 weeks. As both a pioneer and as a player he has earned this honor.
While both have earned their way into the International Tennis Hall of Fame with impressivetennis credentials, they are also the types of role models that exemplify disability pride. And this defines the convergence of the two events this year.
Author: Annette Bourbonniere, Accessibility & Inclusion Consulting