In 1975, softball was adapted so that wheelchair users and other people of varying physical disabilities could participate. The next year, the National Wheelchair Softball Association (NWSA), the governing body for wheelchair softball in the United states, was founded.
Adaptive softball was founded in the Midwest in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The first team was known as the Sioux Wheelers. The sport then caught on in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois and eventually to other countries and is now being played worldwide. The NWSA governs over 30 teams around the world and holds the Wheelchair Softball World Series (WSWS) annually to determine an annual champion. Up until 2013, the Wheelchair Softball World Series was known as the National Wheelchair Softball Tournament (NWST).
People involved in the adaptive softball community have been dedicated to growing the number of teams involved over the last 30 years, as well as making this sport a Paralympic sport. Not only is the adaptive softball community supportive and active in growing the sport, but they’ve even sought and found allegiance and sponsorship with their Major League Baseball (MLB) team counterparts, including the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins. All affiliated teams wear official MLB logos and uniforms and compete under their respective professional team’s logo.
According to the Wheelchair Sports Federation, the game is played under the official rules of the 16-inch slow pitch softball as approved by the Amateur Softball Association of America, with 15 exceptions that are geared toward the wheelchair user.
Rather than a typical baseball field, players will compete on a hard surface, such as a blacktop or parking lot, although it is painted like a traditional baseball diamond and field. This is to provide easy maneuverability in a wheelchair. While traditional softball bases are 60 feet apart, they are 50 feet apart in adaptive softball, making for a mere 10-foot difference.
Another difference between traditional and adaptive softball is the size of the softball. Softballs in adaptive softball are 16 inches, which permits wheelchair users that are playing the sport to keep one hand on the wheelchair while they catch the softball without a glove.