Tiffany Zhao

An Innovation Grant helped Matt Grigorieff work to level the playing field for non-disabled and disabled athletes alike, including Tiffany Zhao.

Case Study Highlights


An Innovation Grant brought together a broad spectrum of campus partners for regular meetings to create and fund a variety of new programs.


  • Offer academic credit to allow more students to experience inclusive fitness.
  • Place accessible equipment in prominent workout spaces.
  • Expand the role of programs well beyond legal Americans with Disabailities Act (ADA) requirements.


  • Identify and build from the home institution’s strengths in facilities and programming.
  • Start small and build new projects on proven successes.


  • The program will continue expanding accessible sports.
  • The campus is seeking funding for a dedicated staff person to lead Fitness for All.
  • Berkeley plans to make a case to the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) for including sports for athletes with disabilities.

When Matt Grigorieff ’12, M.A.Ed ’15 transferred to Berkeley as a junior, he found that Berkeley was far behind his former institution in ensuring people with disabilities benefit from comprehensive athletics programs.

Grigorieff has an invisible disability that has affected his hip and leg motion since he was 7 years old, so this issue is personally important to him. As an undergraduate and graduate student at Berkeley, Grigorieff focused on significantly improving access to sports facilities and programs.

In the spring of 2009, Berkeley offered 98 courses in the Physical Education Department, but none were designed for disabled students. Recognizing the shortcoming, Grigorieff’s research focus as part of the Haas Scholar program was to document adaptive sports programs at other institutions of higher education and begin to assemble recommendations for improving facilities and programs at Berkeley.

He wrote a successful proposal for an Innovation Grant, made possible the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, to support projects growing from student, staff, and faculty initiatives. The Innovation Grant allowed Grigorieff to bring together key stakeholders on campus in a collaborative spirit, including the Department of Recreational Sports (intramural sports), University Health Services, American Cultures Engaged Scholarship, the Disabled Student Program, the Cal Inter-collegiate Athletics, the Division of Equity & Inclusion, and campus fundraisers.

“Athletes with disabilities are teaching the non-disabled how to function in a new world.

One of the unique aspects of the sports being introduced at Berkeley through Grigorieff’s Fitness for All program is that they level the playing field between non-disabled and disabled athletes. In fact, athletes with disabilities are teaching the non-disabled how to function in a new world. Sighted athletes wear blindfolds to play goalball, a sport developed for visually impaired veterans following WWII in which teams of three players try to hurl a heavy rubber ball with bells embedded in it into the opponent’s goal. Power soccer, introduced to the campus in the fall of 2015, takes place on a basketball court and allows those who have never used a power wheelchair to learn the fine points of steering, momentum, and turn ratios from athletes who rely on wheelchairs to maneuver through their world. 

Now earning his master’s degree at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, Grigorieff is mentored by Assistant Adjunct Professor Derek Van Rheenan, the director of Cultural Studies of Sport in Education. Grigorieff’s research focuses on the impact of sports for people with disabilities and highlights the unique curriculum design used in adaptive sports classes at Berkeley. Another important academic feature is that offering single units of academic credit for Fitness for All classes helps students with very full academic schedules find time and space to explore this new field of learning. A three-unit course “Education, the Student Body and Disability Studies,” taught by Van Rheenan and Grigorieff, will debut in the spring of 2016.

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Learn more about the programs at Berkeley that made this case study possible.

  Transfer Scholarship Initiative
  Innovation Grants