Professor Van Rheenen's Academic Publications on Disability and Sport

Van Rheenen, D. (2016). The Blind leading the blind: Goalball as engaged scholarship. Journal of Postsecondary Education and Disability 29(1): 25-34.

Abstract: The paper describes an engaged scholarship course at a large public research university on the west coast of the United States.  The pilot course introduces students to the scholarship on disability framed within the cultural studies of sport. Participants engage with existing literature while actively participating in goalball, a sport designed for the blind or visually impaired.   Through narrative analyses of participants, three themes emerged within this engaged scholarship experience: (i) an increased sensitivity to disability issues through an academic and somatic experience; (ii) challenging ableism by privileging visual impairment in a sports context; and (iii) envisioning political action by creating community among unlikely partners.   Based upon research findings from this pilot study, the paper proposes an integrated model of sport and disability studies at the post-secondary level, bringing together campus and community, combining academic and athletic curriculum and integrating sighted and visually impaired participants. One important outcome of the course has been to help redefine the popular adage of the blind leading the blind from an ableist metaphor to an expression of emancipatory education.

Other manuscripts under review (will be posted soon).

Inclusive Disability & Sport Classes at UC Berkeley:
Embracing the Principles of Engaged Scholarship

Professor Van Rheenen's recent work with disability and athletic participation is a natural fit with his interest in equity, social justice, and traditionally underserved or marginalized groups. His work on combining disability studies with sport participation (as described below) demonstrate's Dr. Van Rheenen's commitment to engaged and public scholarship. 

Professor Van Rheenen and his graduate student mentees (Matt Grigorieff and Jessica Adams) have sponsored and facilitated several engaged scholarship opportunities at UC Berkeley that push the cultural boundaries of disability and sport in the 21st century. These opportunities hope to contribute to best practice models of athletic inclusion that can be replicated at other institutions through the NCAA ('Big Time' college sports), college recreational and intramural sports, K-12 curriculum, and non-profit community level programming. Their advocacy and UC Berkeley classes to promote inclusive sports were featured in the media at the local, national, and internationa levels including PBS, CBS, ABC, San Francisco Chronicle, and La Times. 

Below are a few inclusive sport course activities that are offered to students with and without disabilities together. Students are encouraged to check the UC Berkeley Decal website and see if the 'Engaged Scholarship Around Disability & Sport: Goalball, Power Soccer, and Golf with Marty' is being offered for the semester. Enrollment information and course details will be posted.  Community participation in non-academic activities associated with the class is highly encouraged (inquire with the Rec Sport Department for community memberships). 

The main class lecture associated with the activities aims to provide all students a chance to critically reflect on disability theory in conjunction with the corporeal experience of playing an inclusive sport activity such as Goalball or Power Soccer. Students will be required to do reading assignments nearly every week (while reflecting on guided reading questions), attend guest lectures, occasionally write short responses about the readings, and complete a midterm project and two reflection papers (one at the beginning of the course and a final reflection paper at the end).

During the activity portion, students will learn the fundamental skills of playing an inclusive sport that brings students with and without disabilities together. Students are required to be attend both the weekly lecture and sport activity.

Spring 2016 syllabus available here.

Fall 2015 syllabus available here.

Below is more Information about the engaged scholarship inclusive sport activities:

Goalball in Partnership with the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program

In partnership with the Bay Area Outreach Program (BORP), students will facilitate and participate in the paralympic sport of Goalball while assisting our community partner and learning about the disability community. Goalball is a team sport similar to soccer, yet designed for visually impaired athletes. Participants compete in teams of three, and use the sound of a ball embedded with bells to throw it into an opponent's goal. 

Power Soccer in Partnership with the Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program

Watch these athletes compete against one another as they prove that success in the game can be earned by all, as long as you dare to try. "It isn't about how we are different, but how we are similar." BORP is the leading provider and promoter of adaptive sports and accessible recreation for those with disabilities. Sponsored by Go Pro Video.

Power Soccer is the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users. The game is played in a gymnasium on a regulation basketball court. Two teams of four players attack, defend, and spin-kick a 13-inch soccer ball in a skilled and challenging game similar to able-bodied soccer (U.S. Power Soccer Association, 2015).

The class takes the concept of inclusion a step further by offering electric wheelchairs for non-disabled students to play Power Soccer with peers who use their own motorized wheelchairs. 


Golf with Marty: an Exercise in Inclusion

Learn the game of golf with Instructor Marty Turcios! Marty, one of the first golfers with cerebral palsy to play the game competitively, teaches basic to advanced golfing skills to participants with and without disabilities. Students will learn golfing skills by practicing at Tilden Regional Golf Course.  All golf lessons take place on Friday's between the hours of 9AM and 2PM (students reserve one hour in small groups) and participants are responsible for getting to the golf course.


UC Berkeley's Cal goalball team is honored at the Cal vs. UCLA football game on October 18th, 2014.

UC Berkeley is proud to have created the first collegiate competitive Goalball team with visually and non-visually impaired students. The team is reserved for high level Goalball players only; students who develop the appropriate skill level or have prior experience can participate on the team. This team experience can be tied into the academic class for credit. Please follow up with the Instructor of Record, Professor Derek Van Rheenen, for more information. 

If you are interested in joining the team please email coach Jonathan Newman at, or the team manager & player Jessica Adams at