AccesSportAmerica was founded in 1995 by Ross and Jean Lilley. Since 1983, Ross had been adapting and teaching windsurfing. When their son Joshua was born with cerebral palsy and quadriplegia, it was the incentive to redouble their efforts and adapt sports to inspire higher function. Today, Josh continues as AccesSport’s “official test pilot” for many new adaptations and teaching protocols. AccesSport is considered a pioneer in adaptive equipment and training techniques, recognized for its innovative programs and leadership.
During the summer of 1994, Tony Chamberlain’s story, “Surf’s Up for Josh,” in the July 8 edition of The Boston Globe, reported on Ross and then eight-year-old Josh during their ten-mile windsurf marathon off Cape Cod. Josh was standing and windsurfing while leaning on his father. They were raising funds for Easter Seals. National coverage soon followed, on ABC’s Good Morning America with Medical Editor Dr. Tim Johnson and in major windsurfing magazines.
The journey then began, with commitment of a generous benefactor and several individuals and families, to build a non-profit organization. It would offer an innovative water sports program for children and adults living with disabilities and develop the adaptive equipment. A goal was to promote prolonged physical activity and exertion with sports “to spark the feeling that we all are compelling athletes reaching for higher function.”
In 2001, with our water sports program now being offered in partnership with leading institutions like Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Ross and key staff committed themselves full-time to developing AccesSport into a year-round program. The focus was to develop and offer a year-round sports and training program for our athletes to build on newfound capabilities and strengths acquired while participating in our high-challenge water sports program.
Today, our water sports and year-round training programs reach 2000 children and adults living with disabilities each year in partnership with leading institutions and organizations. A team of trainers, experts, volunteers, and staff are involved in the development and delivery of our programs. We continue to design and adapt equipment to accommodate all disabilities, and our athletes play a vital role in inspiring, developing, and testing our adaptations.
Innovative and effective, AccesSport’s year-round sports and training programs are designed to promote each person’s highest physical and athletic potential while cultivating cognitive, social, and emotional well-being. AccesSport seeks to:
- Adapt sports that the most agile athletes find challenging.
- Foster a positive change in attitude, esteem, and expectation for a life lived with disability.
- Build a community of relationships that lasts a lifetime — a community where differences are diminished, blurred, and often erased.
- Strengthen endurance and decision-making skills while building confidence and self-assurance.
- Expand opportunities by modeling the process of seeking and achieving hard-to-reach accomplishments.
- Experience a sense of unparalleled accomplishment through mastery of balance, coordination, and fear.
- Improve health and fitness, reducing the prevalence of obesity and associated health-related conditions and costs.