Latest History of the sports wheelchair Sporting wheelchair magazine Sports ‘n' Spokes Author: Sam Brady, 24th March 2021 When thinking about the history of sporting wheelchairs, an important thing to consider is how leaps in wheelchair technology – such as user-led adaptions or new releases from major manufacturers – were shared between athletes. Of course, much of this took place in person at competitions and events, but in order to share new developments as adaptive sports began to grow in size worldwide, new methods of communication had to be devised. One of the most vital ways this information exchange happened was in magazines and printed publications, such as this blog’s topic, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES. SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES was established in 1975 by Cliff and Nancy Crase, coming out of Cliff’s sports columns in the Paralysed Veterans of America (PVA) publication Paraplegia News, and Nancy’s experience in graphic design and family history in printing trade. A wheelchair user and athlete himself, Cliff’s vision was to create a dedicated sports magazine for wheelchair sports, and give a voice to wheelchair athletes who “had no means of communications concerning competition, administration, and just plain news.” The magazine began as a homemade production between the husband-and-wife team, and moved into the PVA’s office in Phoenix, Arizona in when Cliff was hired as an editor for Paraplegia News in November of 1978. In 1981, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES was sold to the PVA, and became part of the workload for Paraplegia News staff. Still going today, the team behind SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES has expanded from its two-person operation and remains one of the key publications about adaptive sports. Front covers of 1989 (left) and 2001 (right) issues of SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES. Seemingly, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES played a significant role in not only sharing news about technology, competitions or events, but also connecting athletes to the wider sporting movement and maintaining a sense of community. Despite its US origins, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES was read widely by athletes internationally, and when interviewing athletes for my research, multiple people referred to SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES by name as their source of news about sport in the 1980s and 1990s. Aside from American basketball players and racers, athletes from the UK and Europe also relied on the magazine. This is what drew me towards the publication as a resource for my research, as its focus and broad readership would not only indicate what information was being shared about new sporting wheelchairs, but also how this information was being presented. It may also be worth considering its importance given the increasing professionalism of adaptive sports, as athletes needed to be aware of new developments to stay at the top of their game. So far, I have looked through issues from the early 1980s to the early 1990s, primarily to see how the look and shape of racing chairs changed over time. Even a brief look through these early issues, however, shows the development of the wheelchair market and the variety of equipment available. As adaptive sports grew in popularity and the wheelchair industry grew alongside it, more manufacturers emerged, allowing for more innovation and competition in the market. However, this also became a more confusing space for consumers. Beginning in 1983, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES began to publish an annual survey of sporting wheelchairs in the March/April issues, highlighting the different sports chair manufacturers on the market and providing tables that compared the different dimensions of each model. Sports wheelchair manufacturers single model comparisons table, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1983, pp 22-23. However, by 1985, this survey was rebranded as the survey of lightweight wheelchair manufacturers, as the popularity of sports chairs led many to want to use them for everyday life, requiring certain accessories to facilitate this change in usage. Eventually, this trend would cause an evolution in everyday chair technology, blurring the lines between the two types of chair. Thus, in 1985, the comparison table was abandoned: “We have eliminated the comparison of wheelchairs, since virtually all the manufactures build a lightweight wheelchair with certain characteristics. Instead [...] the comparison chart of sport models has been converted to a summary of the accessories and the availability of these accessories from each manufacturer.” Demonstrably, this annual survey of lightweight wheelchairs is an excellent resource for my research, as it not only shows the technical change in wheelchairs over time, or the manufacturers who made these chairs, but frames the history of the technology and change of the market in the annual surveys. In the 1992 survey, for example, the categories have been divided into ‘type of use’ – everyday, sport, junior and racing – whereas the 26th annual survey begins with Marilyn Hamilton presenting a history of wheelchair technology and highlights the importance of user-led technological developments. Furthermore, the popularity of the survey issues in the 1980s highlights how valuable this information was athletes and readers. However, even with all the information from the surveys, there is so much of value in previous issues of SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES. This ranges from articles about wheelchair selection and technological developments, commentaries and letters from readers, and interviews with and profiles of athletes and coaches. Cliff Crase’s editorials from 1975-2007 are also a great insight into the ever-evolving equipment, such as his January 1977 editorial, ‘Wheels, axles, spokes and...’ in which he details the wide range of adaptions that can be seen at competitions at the time, and the eventuality of international regulations. Even the advertisements within the magazine can tell us a significant amount about manufacturer developments and consumer trends at the time of publication. All of these help in understanding social and cultural factors which have impacted athletes and their wheelchairs as the sport has continued to develop and grow. Article 'The History of Sports Wheelchairs – Part 1', by Thomas John LaMere and Stan Labanowich, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1984, pp 6-11 and Quickie 2 advertisement, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1984, p 9. Overall, this is a highly important publication in general for adaptive sports, but also for my research, and the history of the equipment. Whilst I will be focusing on what it tells me about the technology, I think there are many interesting avenues of research that can be found within this publication. However, what it represented to wheelchair users, as a publication made for and by wheelchair users, is of vital consideration. This was a brief insight into some of my thoughts about this publication, but as my research continues, hopefully I will be able to share more insights from this magazine.  Nancy Crase, Editorials from SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES: 1975-2007, p 5. Ibid, p 6. Nancy Crase, ‘The 1985 Survey of Lightweight Wheelchair Manufacturers’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1985, p 31. Brenda Davis, ‘10th Annual survey of lightweight wheelchair manufacturers: Which lightweight do you want in your corner?’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1992; Marylin Hamilton, ‘26th Annual survey of lightweight wheelchair manufacturers: Creating the next reality’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 2008, pp 34 -36. Ann Sunderlin, ‘7th Annual survey of lightweight wheelchair manufacturers: Creating the next reality’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1989, p 31. Cliff Crase, ‘Wheels, axles, spokes and..., Volume 2 #5: January 1977’, Editorials from SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES: 1975-2007, pp 16-17. References: Cliff Crase, Editorials from SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES: 1975-2007, edited by Nancy Crase, Paralysed Veterans of America, 2015. ‘Wheels, axles, spokes and..., Volume 2 #5: January 1977’, pp 16-17. SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES Magazine:Nancy Crase, ‘The 1985 Survey of Lightweight Wheelchair Manufacturers’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1985, p 31. Ann Sunderlin, ‘7th Annual survey of lightweight wheelchair manufacturers: Creating the next reality’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1989, p 31. Brenda Davis, ‘10th Annual survey of lightweight wheelchair manufacturers: Which lightweight do you want in your corner?’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1992. Marylin Hamilton, ‘26th Annual survey of lightweight wheelchair manufacturers: Creating the next reality’, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 2008, pp 34 -36. Images:Front cover, ‘SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1989 and March/April 2001 Sports wheelchair manufacturers single model comparisons table, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1983, pp 22-23. Thomas John LaMere and Stan Labanowich, ‘The History of Sports Wheelchairs – Part 1,’ SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1984, pp 6. Quickie 2 advertisement, SPORTS ‘N’ SPOKES, March/April 1984, p 9.