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Disabilities Does… Play Sports

Debunking myths and combatting stereotypes

Noah Probert, 35, from Wantagh, doesn’t let disability define him. He says that playing sports is how he expresses himself. Noah, who has Cerebral Palsy, experienced being isolated and bullied in childhood due to the stigma of being in a wheelchair. Now, he won’t let other people’s misconceptions, around wheelchairs and disability, get in his way.

Noah and his teammates play lacrosseNoah’s motivation: to prove to both himself and others what he can do. Noah set out to become the type of person he wished he’d known while growing up.

“I want to be a role model. The other day I met a young girl with a disability, and she said she wanted to start playing sports and that she wants to be like me when she’s older,” Noah said.

“I took her under my wing and sat her down and said, ‘You can do whatever you want to do. It’s your life. Don’t limit yourself and don’t let others limit you either.’”

Noah enjoys lacrosse. “To play, I use certain parts of my hands and legs,” said Noah, who is team goalie for an adaptive lacrosse team through the Garden City (Special Education Parent Teacher Association) Athletic Association.

Noah recently participated in the annual “Shootout for Soldiers” 24–hour charity lacrosse tournament, this summer, at John J. Burns Park in Massapequa, that benefits American veterans. He also recently got hired to be score keeper for the Aviators of Nassau County Wheelchair Association (NAWSA) softball team, that plays at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow.

What would you say to people who are interested in trying something new?

“If you don’t ask, no one will know. It’s about fighting for what you want. It’s not about your staff or family, or what they want for you, it’s about you. So, keep pushing. You gotta try or you’ll never know.”Noah poses with Camp Anchor volunteers as he tries surfing

On July 18, Noah tested the waters of a new sport and tried surfing for the first time at Camp Anchor on Lido Beach, which supports children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) who live in the Town of Hempstead. The recreation-based nonprofit offers activities like sports, ocean, pool, equine therapy, and surfing.

Over the years, Noah has played on adaptive hockey, softball, and basketball teams.

What do you advocate for?

Noah is an active advocate for the disability community. He is a part of our agency’s Self-Advocate and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committees. He was also awarded Citizens Options Unlimited’s Self-Advocate of the Year Award (2022). He has been involved in several advocacy events this past year, like the statewide rallies for more disability funding to be included in the 2023–2024 New York State Fiscal Year Executive Budget.

Noah poses with his coachHe is also a part of the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State (SANYS) and was awarded the SANYS Bernard Carabello Self-Advocate of the Year Award (2022).

“I wish we had more funding for recreational activities. We (the disability community) also need more media coverage. People need to see who we are and what we can do.”

Noah is currently looking for Community Habilitation Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) through Self-Direction. These caretakers will help support him in following his dreams of playing adaptive sports and getting more involved in our agency’s volunteer and advocacy work.

As for the future?

Noah hopes to one day create his own inclusive sports program. He will continue with public speaking, as he advocates for wage enhancements for DSPs, more state funding for disability care, better wheelchair accessibility, and creating a more inclusive society.

“I hope people see my story and think, I can do that too,” Noah said.

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