Kyle Taulman competes during the men's sitting slalom at the 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships on Jan. 21, 2022 in Lillehammer, Norway.
Kyle Taulman wanted to go to a college that could provide him with a good education and was close enough to a mountain for him to continue alpine skiing.
He decided to attend the University of Colorado, which is a three-hour drive from his hometown of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Shortly after arriving on CU’s campus, though, Taulman noticed that the school didn’t offer a lot of opportunities for disabled students like himself to be physically active.
He didn’t think it made much sense since CU is located in Boulder, which is considered one of the healthiest and most active cities in the U.S. He also saw that his able-bodied classmates could easily go hiking, biking, skiing and camping in the area.
Taulman, who was paralyzed at age 2 when a cancerous tumor wrapped around his spinal cord, reached out to CU’s recreational center about possibly offering more adaptive sports. He was glad to find individuals there were receptive to what he had in mind.
Taulman, 20, is now a sophomore and an advocate for the disabled community on campus. He’s majoring in electrical engineering and, in March, he made his Paralympic debut as an alpine skier in Beijing.
“Obviously, I really don’t remember walking. I don’t remember anything like that, so the wheelchair is all I’ve known, and I just live the best life I can,” Taulman said. “But a lot of people can end up in a really dark place. The disabled community is really the only minority group that someone could wake up tomorrow and be a part of, and a lot of people don’t think about that.
“But building that infrastructure and that knowledge of adaptive sport and allowing people the ability to participate in adaptive sport gives those people who do end up in that unfortunate situation a way to heal and a way to continue living.”
Taulman said he helped CU’s rec center get six specialized sports wheelchairs that disabled students or even those with a broken leg can use to play wheelchair basketball and wheelchair tennis.
A group is working on planning on-campus events and talks to introduce more students to adaptive sports. In addition, CU’s club tennis team voted unanimously to add a wheelchair tennis component to its team.
Taulman was named the club team’s first wheelchair tennis player.
“Right now, we’re just working on basically getting something going recreationally, just getting people to come and try it out and start getting people going and over time start to build that more competitive side,” he said.
Taulman learned how to become an outspoken proponent for adaptive sports from his mother, Julie, who served as the longtime executive director of Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports (STARS).
As a result of his spinal cord injury, Taulman doesn’t have any feeling below his belly button. He said he started playing sports as a kid because of his mother’s role with STARS.
“I honestly became kind of their test dummy,” Taulman said. “Whenever they got a new piece of adaptive equipment, whether it be a mountain bike or handcycle or sit ski or wakeboard, water ski, anything like that, it was like, ‘All right, Kyle, go test it. Go try it out. Make sure it works.’”