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Upwardly mobile: Paraclimbers overcome perceived limitations of disability

August 3, 2014 at 1:45 PM EDT
Last month in Atlanta, 39 competitors took part in the first ever National Paraclimbing Championships sponsored by USA Climbing, the governing body of competitive climbing in the United States. NewsHour Weekend visited with some of the athletes in Brooklyn as they trained for the event.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Quemuel Arroyo lost the use of his legs after a biking accident in 2008 and spends most of his day in a wheelchair. But as a member of Adaptive Climbing Group, he’s found a way to leave his chair behind.

QUEMUEL ARROYO: It’s physical and it breaks down the fact that you’re disabled if you are able to be a rock climber and do it.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Adaptive Climbing Group brings climbers with mental and physical disabilities together to challenge themselves and each other.

QUEMUEL ARROYO: We push each other a lot, maybe too much. We’re really hard on each other because it’s like, ‘You can do it!’

HARI SREENIVASAN: Kareemah Batts founded the group two years ago. She lost part of her left leg to cancer.

KAREEMAH BATTS: You become unsatisfied with the aspects of your life from anything from walking to how you used to make the best or how you used to sweep the floor. I chose climbing because I had reached a plateau in my recovery. Rock climbing was one of the only sports that I had never done before and so I said, ‘That’s a good one, I‘m going to pick that one because if I can do it, than I have no more excuses. All assistive devices are on the ground and it’s just you and that wall.

QUEMUEL ARROYO: I don’t think I’m the best climber out there. I’m going to meet awesome climbers who, like me, want to have fun and want to challenge themselves and break social barriers around being disabled and just kicking some ass and rock climbing.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Quemuel Arroyo did just that, winning a silver medal in Atlanta. Adaptive Climbing Group won five medals over all.