Nation's Cities Weekly / May 15, 1995

Beyond Access: Inclusion

A non-traditional basketball game called Bankshot is taking the concept of accessibility a step further by creating competition based on brain power, not physical strength.

Dotting a brightly colored playing course are traditional basketball hoops affixed to uniquely shaped "bankboards," each of which requires a different type of "banked" shot, from specific color-coded locations. Picture a giant version of the 1960s game Twister with seven to 12 foot high Tinkertoy-like baskets towering over it and you have "Bankshot."

In Bankshot Basketball™, according to its inventor Rabbi Reeve Brenner, "touch and brains win out over power, size, aggression, speed and strength. Bankshot minimizes the advantage of physical power and maximizes universally accessible abilities: concentration, touch and practice."

Bankshot goes beyond the ADA edict requiring ramps and physical structures to improve access for persons with disabilities. The game makes possible competition between "able-bodied" persons and persons with physical limitations. Ramps and access ensure that everyone can get to afacility, but Bankshot ensures that everyone can compete on a level--and brightly colored--playing field!

How Bankshot Works?

Brenner invented the game in 1981 during a trip to Israel in connection with an the International Year of the Disabled. It is played with a traditional basketball rim. However, all of the backboards are configured in different geometric shapes causing the ball to roll around in unpredictable directions. Thus, the game requires different shooting strategies to reach the goal of "banking the ball" off the "bankboard" to score. The object of the game is to master the angles of the Bankshot boards similar to playing billiards. whoever scores the most points wins.

Bankshot combines elements of traditional sports like basketball, golf and billiards into a "non-running, non-exclusionary" sport.

The game has attracted the attention of basketball great Wilt Chamberlain, who played Bankshot on national television during a NBA All-Star Game. Kicking off a celbration of its 10 years in the United States, organizers of Bankshot planned several demonstrations of the game in 1994 and 1995 during events sponsored by the Charlotte Hornets, the Detroit Pistons, and at the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA Divisions I Men's Basketball Tournament.

Bringing People Together

"A recreation facility that provides accessibility but no total-mix activity is hardly acess, nor does it comply with the meaning or spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you ramp all the great outdoors but the ramps lead to no participation, they become ramps to frustration."

The game, according to a number of published reports about recreation programs that use Bankshot, provides a fun alternative to the standard of creating "separate but equal" facilities. Bankshot playing fields began popping up consistently in the early 1990s throughoutthe country in places like Northern Virginia, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Minneapolis and New York.

In fact, many amusement facilities have discovered Bankshot to be a great attraction for families, much like miniature golf. Adults and children can play together and those waiting their turn enjoy watching the successes and foibles of those preceding tehm through the Bankshot course.

Used in local recreational settings, "The court's bright colors and interesting backboards attracted throngs of neighborhood children and soon the able-bodied children from nearby and the physically challenged children were playing Bankshot together," according to Brenner.

The Inman Recreation Center in Valparaiso, Ind. has taken its program so far as to include Bankshot leagues. There are now about 100 Bankshot courses in public parks and commercial recreation centers across the country.