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RIISE Makes Leaps Towards Future of Inclusion and Accessibility in Sports

Members of RIISE

Whether it is engineering a sturdier wheelchair for an agriculture student to navigate rough terrain in fields, lifting the voices that advocate for Paralympic excellence or hosting wheelchair basketball clinics to enhance athletic performance, RIISE Purdue is making leaps towards a future of inclusion and accessibility.

Reinventing the Interface of Inclusivity, Sports, and Engineering, known as RIISE, showcases excellence and improves accessibility in Paralympic sports. RIISE seeks to enhance the world of accessibility through athletics. Engineering projects that design tools to even the playing field for athletics, clinics to refine athletic skills, and platforms to raise voices on the great accomplishments of Paralympic athletes are all ways in which RIISE is making a difference on our campus, in our community and in the world. RIISE, despite only being founded in 2019, is already making huge leaps in shortening the disparity between able-bodied athletes and athletes with a physical disability.

Kaylee Meyer, a senior and the president of RIISE, says adaptive technology and RIISE are working to create equity for athletes with disabilities.

“There is such a wide disparity between able-bodied athletes and athletes with a physical disability,” Meyer says. “They don’t get the same treatment; whether it is highlighting what they do, their practice conditions or even their funding.

It is easier to ignore the problem, but when we help people and encourage them, we empower them to see themselves in a different light. It helps the community which helps you in return.”

Mary Borchers, junior and vice president of RIISE, expands on this.

“The combination of the engineering aspect paired with the social movement change is a really cool bridge between academics and social involvement," Borchers says.

A Purdue basketball player giving someone a fist bump.

At the heart of RIISE are students willing to put in the work to accomplish strides in adaptive technology. RIISE chases the dream of showcasing Paralympic excellence around the world. Members work in the interface of inclusivity, sports, and engineering. The common thread that connects the club members of RIISE together is their commitment to getting work done. Members of the club face many opportunities to get involved and utilize their individual strengths. From communications, design and engineering, marketing, to even business, there are departments for anyone looking to get involved.

Meyer emphasizes that no matter the major, “if you’re looking to make a difference in our community or if you’re looking to get involved in sports and gain professional skills, we have ways to help each individual get what they are looking for. We are so broad, which gives us so much to play with.”

There are many events that RIISE hosts to tackle the challenge of inequity in sports. An event on the horizon that is highly anticipated is Wheel RIISE, an inaugural basketball scrimmage to support Paralympic excellence. The basketball scrimmage this year is with the Illinois men’s and women’s wheelchair basketball team, the Lafayette Spinners local team, and RIISE is hoping to see Purdue athletes in attendance too. When describing Wheel RIISE, Borchers describes that it is “a feature event where we are trying to highlight adaptive sports.”

People playing wheelchair basketball.

“It is everything we are in a day,” Meyer says. “It’s Paralympic excellence, it is highlighting our projects and it’s educating on adaptive sports to take away the stigmatism of getting in a chair.”

Another distinguishing feature of RIISE is their podcast, on which they interview successful Paralympic athletes and individuals at Purdue that contribute to RIISE and accessibility. Though in the past the podcast has worked to give Paralympians a platform to share their successes, the podcast will be pivoting to focus on RIISE’s role within Purdue, focusing on events and local athletes to get the word out about the benefits of adaptive sports

“Definitely expect a new podcast episode to be coming out soon,” Meyer promises.

Much like the podcast, the club is always looking to grow and change, adapting to the needs of the campus and community. Meyers will be passing the presidency on to Borchers post-graduation and both women look forward to seeing the progress that will be made in the club’s future.

“On a more personal note, we’ve grown up a little bit, and it’s been fun growing up together,” Meyer says. “It is really cool to think about Mary continuing the club even when I’m gone.”

With RIISE being a fairly new club, there are unique challenges faced by this growing organization as a result of its young age.

“Our biggest challenge is being a new organization and navigating all of the connections that you need to make an organization work,” Borchers states. “Kaylee and I are constantly in meetings with old and new contacts, trying to get ahead and get an edge on whatever problem we are facing.”

The change that RIISE accomplishes could not be done without the forward-thinking that the members consistently implement, which spurs growth and change. Without the barriers that come with an older club being set in old ways of thinking, RIISE pursues the marathon that is confronting and tearing down social stigmas.

Purdue Pete hugging an Illinois athlete.

There are four main ways to get involved with this progressive and dedicated club: attend their fall callout, follow their social media, attend their events and donate to their cause. There are wheelchair clinics that prospective members can attend. Prospective members do not need a wheelchair to attend. To support the organization financially, visit the RIISE website.

RIISE welcomes new members of all backgrounds, and rewarding experiences are possible for involved.

Meyer reflects, “When you start out, you might only see yourself as a member of a bigger organization, but when you put in the work, you will see the results of your hard work.”

Individuals interested in learning more about RIISE or donating to their cause can learn more via their website, Instagram, or Twitter.


Written by: Hannah Williamson, Writing and Communications Intern, Student Life Marketing