Introducing SOBAC: Bringing Inclusivity and Accessibility to Ashokan Sports
By Miti Agrawal
Disclaimer: The writer holds a leadership position at SOBAC.
In an effort to add to Ashoka University’s burgeoning sports culture, as well as ensuring that the space remains as diverse and inclusive as possible, the university saw the addition of a new club in 2022 which seeks to find itself at the intersection of these two areas, and make the environment surrounding sports all the richer for it. Special Olympics Bharat Ashoka Chapter, more popularly called SOBAC, was initiated by Kavya Sood (UG’24) earlier this year
Special Olympics, founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, is the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults suffering from intellectual and physical disabilities. A sister to former US President John F. Kennedy and American Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Shriver used her platform to ensure maximum opportunity to a community of people who far too often go overlooked. Special Olympics now provides training and activities to 5 million participants and unified sports partners in 172 countries across the world annually, India being one of them.
Asked about how she was made aware of the initiative, Kavya answered “I was introduced to special olympics by my father 8 years back, ever since I have worked with the organisation for spreading awareness regarding the rights of people with intellectual diabilities.”
People with intellectual disabilities are classed as those who have an IQ below 70-75 and have trouble comprehending and communicating. SOBAC’s goal is to empower people with intellectual disabilities by offering them these opportunities to socially integrate and contribute to society to the best of their abilities.
“Coming to Ashoka, I realised that our campus is an ideal space for youth activation because of the inclusivity culture prevalent at Ashoka,” continued Kavya. “That is what made me want to bring SOB to Ashoka and make our university a part of Special Olympics’s international journey.
SOBAC’s mission is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disability. This involves giving them continued opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship, with their families and other Special Olympics athletes in the community. The red ball is supposed to be their symbol of inclusion.
The club also aims to spread awareness about unified sports - individuals with intellectual disabilities (athletes) and people without intellectual disabilities (partners) side by side, competing as sports teams. The goal with this is to promote social inclusion through sports.
As a club, SOBAC has organized several events on campus in the last 6 months and also visited children with intellectual disabilities for their school event. Last semester, they organized UMANG, a Diwali event where children from Little Angels School in Sonepat were invited to participate in rangoli-making, diya-painting, and games.
There are many initiatives in the works from SOBAC in the future as well, ranging from local to national sports events, to leadership workshops with the aim of global messaging, and youth summits pointed towards wide-scale societal contributions.
Special Olympics, from its highest levels to its more grassroots chapters such as the one finding its feet in Ashoka, see their mission as a tremendous opportunity to invest in young people as they grow into the decision-makers of this world. Special Olympics aims to be a unique global leader in harnessing the energy of young people, with and without intellectual disabilities, to create the first unified generation.
“We aim to reach a larger audience every year and making more and more people a part of our journey,” concludes Kavya Sood in our interview with her. “We want to create a safe and inclusive space for people with inettelctual disabilities through sports activities. The society must not treat them as different or special but as 'unique'.”