Growing up, Matt Davis [https://wkuherald.com/sports/article_19c6b6c6-7514-11e0-90bc-001a4bcf6878.html] had seen wheelchair racing on television but never imagined he would be able to compete. Today his walls are covered with posters of wheelchair racing in Japan, where he has competed on 10 separate occasions. Davis is proof that you can do anything when you put your mind to it.Born with spina bifida, a disorder where the vertebrae overlying the spinal cord are not fully formed, life in a wheelchair is all he’s ever known.
As an undergrad at Western Kentucky University, the help of the student disabilities services changed Davis’s life. His Affirmative Action/ADA compliance officer helped him get his first racing chair. Through bake sales and pledges, they raised enough money for Davis to participate in his first race, a 10-kilometer race in Bowling Green in 1997. Since then, he has competed both nationally and internationally in wheelchair racing.
Just last month, he finished 21st overall in the 2011 Boston Marathon wheelchair race [http://www.bostonmarathon.org/BostonMarathon/Disabilities.asp]. Crossing the finish line ahead of over 27,000 other participants is an impressive feat and shows just how far he has come.
Today Davis works as the coordinator of Student Disability Services at WKU and helps students each day while they attend classes. “It helps when I meet with a student and can say, ‘I’ve been where you are.’ I was a student here as an undergrad. I know how the Hill can be challenging.” Davis works daily to ensure the correct accommodations are made in the classroom and around the campus for those in need.
He has even inspired a number of WKU students to follow in his footsteps and get involved in racing. As an athlete and activist, Davis is a true inspiration for the wheelchair community.
What are your favorite wheelchair accessible sports to play? Who has your favorite success story? We’d love to feature the amazing people in your community!