Disabled Sports USA + Adaptive Sports USA = Move United

If this week’s historic merger between Disabled Sports USA (DSUSA) and Adaptive Sports USA (ASUSA) caught you by surprise, you’re not alone. It kind of snuck up on the two organizations themselves, who will operate jointly from now on as Move United.

“We started a conversation back in November about combining events and streamlining our efforts and programs a little more, because a lot of our chapters overlap,” says ASUSA executive director Susan Rossi, who will transition into the role of director of competition for Move United. “And it evolved to a question of, ‘Why aren’t we considering this more globally?’ The current situation, with the cancellation of events and the uncertainty in the economy, sealed the deal. It verified the need to go forward [with a merger] and confirmed that it was the right thing to do.”

There’s a whole lot to like about the combination, which creates a super-network of roughly 200 local chapters (and growing) supporting more than 100,000 athletes. Move United will serve everyone from high-level competitors to recreational athletes and beginners. It will broaden adaptive athletics by recruiting new participants and introducing new sports, while deepening the US talent pool and enlarging the pipeline from youth parasports to Team USA.

Having a one-stop shop will make it easier for athletes, coaches, and sponsors to get involved, Rossi says. It will eliminate programming overlap and streamline the relationships between local affiliates and the national organization. But those benefits only scratch the surface. Where Move United can make a real difference, says executive director Glenn Merry, is in promoting civil rights for disabled Americans.

“This is about the ability to be seen and treated as equals,” says Merry, who was DSUSA’s executive director prior to the merger. “Sport is an equal playing field. This is a social justice movement that uses sport as a lever to change the way people with disabilities are perceived. It’s about challenging stereotypes and challenging the outside world to understand who we are.”

That mission is woven into the new organization’s name. In one sense, Move United describes the merger of two organizations that promote movement and physical activity. But it also refers to the coalescing of a social movement—the unification of a message and a voice declaring that there is no such thing as disability. There’s only ability.

The coming decade offers a unique opportunity for that message and voice to be heard, Merry adds. With the Tokyo Paralympics ahead in 2021 and the Games returning to the United States in 2028, a huge swath of society will be paying attention.

“This is a historic time to bring these organizations together,” Rossi says. “Both were formed before the American Disabilities Act passed, before the Paralympics even began, before so much of the progress in our society now. We’ve always been at the forefront. And now we can have even more leverage, be it in media, sponsor development, or being more global in our outreach.”

This merger came together quickly, so it won’t be finalized until the end of the year. Lots and lots more info at Move United’s website.