Special needs

Parapan Am Games: Why this year's event is so extraordinary

The Parapan Am Games have been equally promoted alongside the Pan Am Games, and Anchel Krishna couldn't be more impressed with the results.

PanAmGames-family-special-needs-parenting

Syona bonds with the PanAm and Parapan Am mascot. Photo: Anchel Krishna

Ever since my four-year-old daughter Syona asked me why she couldn’t walk two weeks ago, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how to expose her to more diversity. As a family, I think we’ve done a good job so far. I’ve written before about why it’s important for Syona—any kid, really—to have a diverse group of friends. But now, as she gets older, it’s time to look beyond our own small community and show her what is really out there.

The timing couldn’t be better as Toronto gears up to host the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games this summer. During the deep freeze that was this winter, I recall seeing the awesome commercial that showed athletes of all abilities descending on the city for the games. I remember thinking how great it was that they made one commercial to promote the entire event, instead of two different commercials. The fair representation of people our society has traditionally viewed as “different” is something important to me and I think these ads are progress and a trend I hope to see continue.

Last week, a tour of the facilities had officials touting Toronto as the best prepared city to host the Parapan Am Games. I was pretty excited to hear this. While I know that Toronto has a long way to go before it’s fully accessible for people with disabilities, my hope is that this is a shift toward a better Toronto; a more accommodating Toronto.

The organizing committee also appears to be on track when it comes to promoting both events equally. They closed down the first block of Pan Am ticket sales so that they could devote proper attention and resources to when the Parapan Am tickets go on sale on Monday, March 23. Accessible seats will be available with a discounted ticket price available for a companion/support person. And for the first time at a major international games competition all the medals for both “able-bodied” and para-athletes will feature braille.

I don’t expect Syona to be a competitive, world-class para-athlete at any point in her life—not because of her disability, but simply because her genes are heavily skewed to being a mathalete (Dilip) and clumsy word nerd (me). But who knows? The girl continues to surprise me. So I figure we may as well celebrate the summer by exposing her to world class athletes of all abilities and have some serious fun.

Will your family attend or watch the Pan Am or Parapan Am Games this summer?

Follow along as Anchel Krishna shares her experiences as mother to Syona, an extraordinary toddler with cerebral palsy. Read all of Anchel’s Special-needs parenting posts and follow her on Twitter @AnchelK.