National Disability Independence Day was recognized July 26 in the United States. The observance commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act into law in 1990. In this feature, we look back at a story previously published by Notre Dame Alumni Association about Dr. Feranmi Okanlami ’15 M.S., who is changing the world of adaptive sports and inclusive recreation.
October 20, 2022, was a normal Thursday for Dr. Feranmi Okanlami ’15 M.S. He woke up, brushed his teeth, and went to the University of Michigan’s indoor track facility to shoot a local TV spot highlighting an upcoming event that members of his adaptive sports and fitness program would be participating in. The topic was close to his work at Michigan — and his personal life after suffering a broken neck jumping into a pool at a Fourth of July party almost a decade prior.
It was just another ordinary Thursday, as Okanlami moved around the facility in his wheelchair, not letting the spinal cord injury that paralyzed him from the chest down stop him from experiencing the joy of sports.
Then, he won a million dollars.
In 2019, Okanlami had been featured on Good Morning America as part of Robin Roberts’ Thriver Thursday series, which highlights people who have overcome incredible adversity. This time, Roberts came to Okanlami, surprising him at the facility with seven gold balloons — a one followed by six zeros — to honor him as one of three winners of the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize “to celebrate influential voices in the world of spinal cord injury.”
The reveal left Okanlami almost speechless. But he has a lot to say about those with disabilities — and just as importantly, the world around them.
Originally published by Notre Dame Alumni Association at weare.nd.edu on April 3, 2023.