Can a Kid in a Wheelchair be an Athlete?

Kids Quest: Mobility

What should you know?

Happy school kids standing in corridor while schoolgirl sitting on wheelchair

Children who have limited movement might use a wheelchair, walker, or other assistive device.  Children who use assistive devices may find it hard to participate in some activities due to physical and other types of barriers. These barriers can make children who use assistive devices feel isolated from other children, but this doesn’t have to be the case! Changes to the environment, such as ramps or elevators, or adapted equipment can help children with mobility limitations participate more fully in sports and other activities. Let’s learn more about ways to promote inclusion.

Follow the 8 steps below for your Web Quest.

Step 1: See what you think about kids who use a wheelchair. Take the Fact Checkup!

Step 2: Think about some questions to ask.

Step 3: Check out some quick facts.

Step 4: Check out some great websites to help you learn more.

Step 5: Find out about people you can read about to help with your Quest.

Step 6: Learn about movies and books that can give you information.

Step 7: Check out your school and neighborhood.

Step 8: Now see if your attitudes have changed. Take the Fact Checkup again.

Let’s see…

If a kid uses a wheelchair, does that mean that he or she has poor health? Can athletes with a disability be as good as athletes without a disability? Can kids who use wheelchairs be athletes if they can’t get into the gym or pool or track?

Some things to think about….

A super hero

What are some sports that athletes with disabilities can participate in?

How fast can athletes with disabilities go in a race?

What are the Paralympics?

What are some difficulties that kids with disabilities face when being an athlete?

Can you think of more questions to help you in your Quest?
Click here to write them down so you’ll remember them as you move through this QUEST.

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Quick Facts

Here are some facts that may help you answer some of your Web Quest questions. Remember, these facts will only give you basic information.

  • Athletes use sport-specific wheelchairs that allow them to reach speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
  • The average basketball wheelchair will cost around $1500 and has a 5th wheel at the back to prevent the wheelchair from flipping backwards during play.
  • Paralympics is the same as the Olympics except that all of the participants have some sort of disability. The Paralympic Games have always been held in the same year as the Olympic Games and occur every 4 years.

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World-Wide Web Search

Spirit the Bird mascot for Paralympic Games

Official site of the International Paralympic Gamesexternal icon

Learn more about the elite athletes with disabilities and the games. How are the sports similar and different in the Paralympic games and the Olympic games?

US Paralympic Team

US Paralympic Teamexternal icon

Learn more about the United States Team, view photos, read stories of atheletes, and find information about upcoming events.


National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD)external icon

Learn more about how kids with disabilities can be physically active and participate in sports. Explore the website and find videos about yoga, track and field and summer camps for kids with disabilities.

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Read about people with disabilities who have mobility disabilities. Learn how they have become athletes. These stories are part of the US Paralympic Team and came from their websiteexternal icon.

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Videos and Books

Here is a video about Walk!Bike!Fun! a program that includes students with mobility limitations in biking. Ask your parents or teachers if you can watch this video on YouTube.


With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Minnesota Department of Health worked with partners to make the Walk!Bike!Fun! Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety curriculum available to students with mobility limitations.

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Book Cover for Some Kids Use Wheelchairs showing a young smiling child sitting in a wheelchair

Some Kids Use Wheelchairs: Revised Edition (Understanding Differences)

by Lola M. Schaefer (2008)
Reading Level: Ages 4 – 8 years

This book can help show kids how to enjoy activities with friends who have health differences. It can help show concepts of diversity and inclusion.

Roll with it

Roll With It

by Jamie Sumner (2019)
Reading Level: Ages 10 and up

This is a story of Ellie, a kid who uses a wheelchair and big dreams of becoming a pro baker. Ellie begins to make new friends, even after moving to a new town with her mom.

I Funny: A Middle School Story

I Funny: A Middle School Story

By James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (2012)
Reading Level: Ages 8 – 12 years

This is a story of Jamie Grimm, a young boy who doesn’t let his wheelchair get in the way of his dreams to become a comedian.

My School and Neighborhood

Super KQ with a magnifying glass

Look around your school and neighborhood to see how many barriers need to be changed to help kids who use a wheelchair have the same opportunities to be athletes as kids without a disability.

1. Do you have to go up steps to enter your school or community buildings? If so, look to see if there are ramps for people who use wheelchairs to get in.

2. Does your school have more than one floor? If it does, is there an elevator for kids who use wheelchairs to get to the second floor?

3. Are the doors in your school large enough for a wheelchair to get in? Most doors need to be at least 36 inches wide. Measure your doors to see if they are 36 inches.

National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has developed a Guide to Inclusive Physical Activity Programs pdf icon[4.29MB/30 pages]external icon for schools to promote inclusion of children with disabilities in school physical activity programs. Talk with your teachers and see if they would help you get this curriculum for your school.

Inclusion assumes that all children, regardless of ability, have the right to:

  • Be respected and appreciated as valuable members of the school community
  • Fully participate in all school activities
  • Interact with peers of all ability levels with opportunities to develop friendships and learn and respect differences.

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Links outside this website

We provide links to other web pages if you want to learn more about a topic. Some of these pages are on the CDC web site and others are on outside websites. Links to organizations and companies outside of CDC are included for information only. CDC has no control over the information at these sites. The views and opinions of these organizations are not necessarily those of CDC, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), or the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS).