Direct Access' Nathan Leese interviewed on International Wheelchair Day

A young male Caucasian teenager in a wheelchair dressed in dark blue and white sportswear on an indoor basketball court. His arms are in the air after throwing a basketball to the hoop. The ball is mid-air.

International Wheelchair Day, observed annually on March 1st, is a global celebration of the profound impact wheelchairs have on the lives of millions around the world.

To celebrate the occasion, we sat down to interview wheelchair team member Nathan Leese at Direct Access about the positive impact his wheelchair has made in his life and his participation in his favorite adaptive sport; Wheelchair Basketball.

1. How did you first hear about/become interested in wheelchair basketball?

The first time I came across Wheelchair Basketball was in 2012 when it was shown on TV during the 2012 Paralympics. Soon after this, I went to a Paralympic multi-sports event. At the event, I tried many different sports, but wheelchair Basketball was the one that I enjoyed the most. I then went on to meet with the head coach of my local team which was and still is Stoke Spitfires, I have been playing there ever since.

2. How does wheelchair basketball differentiate from regular basketball in terms of rules and gameplay?

Wheelchair basketball is quite similar to regular basketball in many ways. However, there is no double dribble rule in wheelchair basketball. Players in Wheelchair Basketball have to push the rims twice and then bounce the ball, as normal basketball needs to be continuous dribbling. In my personal experience wheelchair Basketball is extremely technical, as a player needs to be able to push the chair, look for teammates to pass to, and try and prevent the chair from crashing into other opponents/walls.

3. How has playing wheelchair basketball positively impacted your life?

Wheelchair Basketball has had an extremely positive impact on my life. It has allowed me to meet new people, travel to places all over the country, and be on a level playing field with everybody else because everyone who plays even if they have not got a disability need to play in a wheelchair. Wheelchair Basketball allows me to play competitively with others and feel a sense of belonging.

4. Have you tried/been involved with other adaptive sports, or have you focused solely on basketball? If you tried other sports, what were they?

 I have tried several different sports, including Wheelchair Tennis, Wheelchair Racing, Wheelchair Archery, and Wheelchair Curling.

5. Beyond the obvious physical benefits tied to involvement with athletics, what other benefits do you believe involvement in sports has for disabled people?

Sport helps disabled individuals with socializing gaining new friends and talking to people who are going through the same thing. It creates a sense of happiness and joy. It also stops the brain from overthinking and worrying about what their situation is and keeps them believing that they are no different from anyone else.

A mixed group of teenage wheelchair users within an indoor basketball court smile as they pose for a photo. Above them is a basketball hoop.

6. The Wheelchair isn’t usually celebrated in wider society. It’s often seen negatively. A device that you are “confined to” or “bound” by. What does your wheelchair mean to you?

My Wheelchair is my form of transport, it helps me hugely with traveling to different places/events and helps me to meet up with friends and family. Without my wheelchair, I would be confined to only walking a short distance on my walking sticks. It ultimately means freedom and independence.

7. What advice would you give to someone who is either newly diagnosed or injured and is in the process of obtaining a chair for the first time?

I would say that it is nothing to be nervous about, a Wheelchair can be difficult to maneuver at first, however, it doesn’t take long to get used to and it can also look cool and become a fun piece of equipment.

8. What do you do with your free time away from basketball?

Away from Basketball I play video games, listen to music, and go out to complete different activities with my friends and family.

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