"I was declared legally blind at eight years old. Like most eight-year-olds, my priority was moving around--running, monkey bars, capture the flag. I was an energetic kid, and I loved outdoor playtime, no matter rain, shine, snow, or blindness. As I grew older though, I became increasingly exposed to the fact that the world was not built for people like me. In middle school PE, I was hit in the face with balls three times before my gym teacher told me I might just have to sit out the rest of the year. Two years later, I was told I couldn't march in the marching band. Over the course of a few years, I went from being the leader of every playground tag game to begging my high school Assistant Principal to let me avoid taking another gym class. I thought that because I was blind, I couldn't do sports. I thought there were a lot of things I couldn't do. That was, until I started college and joined a student disability advocacy group. For the first time in my life, I met other young disabled people, and I started to question everything about what I was capable of. " Emeline is currently residing in New York City and is a first time competitor for the US National Paraclimbing team. In her own words: I am "a mover and a shaker, I aspire to be both a savvy marketer and a champion for positive change. Now, I love pushing my athletic limits, and I’m testing out all kinds of activities that I used to think were off limits for me. I’m on a mission to show what blind girls can really do." Emeline's favorite adaptive activities include "anything where I feel like I’m flying! My primary sport is rock climbing, but I also tandem cycle. Whenever the opportunity for more adventurous outdoor sports come around I take it! I also love things like horse-riding, whitewater rafting, and flying trapeze!"
Path to the #AdaptiveNation
In college I became involved with disability advocacy. I threw countless disability awareness events, lobbied at all levels of government for disability legislation, enacted policy and physical accessibility changes on campus, created safe spaces for disabled students, began writing and creating videos about blindness topics, and more. I also learned about adaptive sports. I learned about Goal Ball and Beep Baseball, and even took a couple golfing classes using Blind Golf adaptations. After college, I started working full-time in Marketing at a consumer products company, and moved to New York City. In an effort to meet new disabled friends, I perused the internet and decided to give adaptive rock climbing a try. To climb without sight, I partner with a caller, someone who stands on the ground and tells me where the holds are around me. To my surprise, it was a matter of weeks for climbing to go from a weekly activity to a passion. I joined the competitive team of Paracliffhangers (PCH), an organization that makes climbing inclusive and accessible. It was in the Paracliffhangers community where I found my caller, Alana. For months we climbed and/or trained 12+ hours a week, constantly pushing my limits and breaking my personal records. I made the US National Team in March, and participated in my first World Cup in May in Salt Lake City, Utah. Climbing changed my life.
I’m passionate about creating sustainable, mainstream adaptive sports programs so that disabled students, even those not in specialized schools, can participate in physical activity. In 2019, I testified at the Texas State Capitol to try and do just that. The bill I supported would create an extracurricular adaptive sports program for public school students across the state. It took two years, but in 2021 the bill actually became law. Policy is a complicated process, and few things are as simple as passing legislation. However, this was a monumental step forward, and it’s the kind of work I can’t wait to do more of!
I am most proud of ...
I’ve been a disability advocate for years. I’ve worked on policy and legislation, I’ve helped put together awareness events, I’ve served the blindness community through organizational leadership and my own YouTube channel, I write educational blog articles, and the list goes on. I just love the disability community, and I want to do whatever I can to make the world a more inclusive place. That said, since finding my way to athletics after years of exclusion, I’ve realized how singularly important it is for disabled children to have equitable access to sports and exercise, yet that access is frequently nonexistent.
Always find time for things that make you feel happy to be alive.