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'It has opened up my world as a disabled person'- What is accessible sport?

Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,214 Disability Gamechanger

What is an accessible sport? 

There are a range of names for sports and activities that are accessible to people who might usually be excluded from physical activities, including accessible sports, parasports, and disability sports. From now on, I’ll be using ‘accessible sport’ as a general term to refer to any sport that’s inclusive and accessible to all.

These activities can be adaptations of sports designed for non-disabled people, or new sports that have been designed specifically with disabled people in mind.

Adapted sports

There are several ways sports can be adapted to accommodate a wider range of participants. These can include:
  • Allowing for the use of equipment, such as wheelchairs
  • Ensuring the venue is accessible
  • Modifying sporting equipment so that it is more accessible, including footballs that make a noise 
  • Offering alternative exercises so that everyone can take part at their own level
Here are some examples of adapted sports and activities: 
  • Walking football: an adapted version of football that bans running, the ball being kicked too high, and physical contact. It’s open to people of all genders, and I can attest to it being great fun! You can read more about walking football on the FIFA website
  • Wheelchair basketball: an adapted version of basketball that requires all participants to use a wheelchair. You can read more about wheelchair basketball on the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation website
  • Chair yoga: an adapted version of yoga that makes use of a standard chair, or wheelchair, to do the exercises. You can get some ideas for chair yoga poses on the Wheelpower website
I got in touch with two walking football clubs, York Vikings WFC and Bramley Walking Wanderers, to find out more about the benefits of getting back into sport.
Paul, walking footballer at York Vikings WFC: 
"I thought my footy days were well and truly over but walking football has given me the incentive to get fitter and have fun playing again a sport I’ve always loved. Walking Football Coaches and Facilitators make new players feel welcome and you soon feel part of the group. Come on. Give it a go. You won’t be disappointed!“
Mike, coach at York Vikings WFC:
“Open to all, Walking football sessions are played in a friendly and empathetic spirit by groups of mixed ability players. Given that the inherent benefits of regular activity with like-minded people is well established and there are many Walking Football Clubs and Leisure Centre sessions right across the country every week, what are you waiting for?”
Fran, leader at Bramley Walking Wanderers:
“The coaching is brilliant, the players clearly love their weekly games and the friends they're making, and the on-pitch camaraderie and team-spirit follows the players off the pitch too. We have seen that sport is more than a physical activity, that most people are happier with a 'team' supporting them, and that adapting sports like football to cater for different levels of fitness enables people to continue doing what they love." 

New sports

There are also lots of new sports that have been created specifically for people with various kinds of impairments. Here are some examples:
  • Goalball: a three-a-side attack and defend ball game especially designed for people with a visual impairment. You can read about the rules, and how to get involved, on British Blind Sport’s website
  • RaceRunning: an innovative sport for those with impaired balance that makes use of a custom-built frame. You can find out more on the RaceRunning website
  • Boccia: originally designed for people with Cerebral Palsy, but now inclusive of anyone with an impairment that affects motor skills, boccia is a game of strategy and accuracy, similar to bowls. You can read more on the Boccia England website

Who can get involved in accessible sports?

People sometimes assume that accessible sports are only for older people, or that you must be a wheelchair user to take part. This isn’t the case at all. Many accessible sport clubs across the country are open to people of all different levels of skill, ability, and experience.

Everyone has their own story about how they got involved in disability sport, and where it has led them. We spoke to international RaceRunning athlete Ellie Simpson about her story:
"Growing up I was the least sporty person out there. Having Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy I couldn’t kick a ball, catch a ball, hold rackets, run, jump or throw. Sport was a total ‘no go’ area for me until I discovered Para sport following London 2012. Sport, specifically Para Athletics, completely changed my life and opened up brand new doors both on and off of the track. Aside from my success in sport, including breaking a world record and winning a Silver medal for GB, it has opened up my world as a disabled person physically, socially and academically. Physically my Cerebral Palsy has improved in certain areas as I’m stronger than I ever have been, for example negotiating steps has become easier for me. Socially I have made some great friends and I have become a part of something with a true sense of belonging. Academically I have taken new paths, leading me to University to study Sport Development."
You can follow what Ellie is up to on Twitter and Instagram. If you or someone you know is a teenager or young adult with cerebral palsy, I’d also highly recommend checking out the charity Ellie set up: CP Teens UK.

Why should I get involved?

Hopefully you can see from the comments above that taking part in sport has lots of benefits. These can include:
  • A higher level of general fitness
  • Improved mobility
  • Meeting new people
  • Better mental health
I reached out to our very own @jonathancollins_2222 to find out the impact the wonderful sport of wheelchair fencing has had on his life:
“Before I took up the sport of Wheelchair Fencing I was unfit, overweight and depressed, and now I am a lot fitter, happier and alert. Due to Wheelchair Fencing, I now have contacts from all around the world on social media through the sport and one contact asked me if I would like to write a book about Wheelchair Fencing. Writing a book was the last thing I had considered as I thought it was far beyond my ability, However I achieved it when Into The Frame was Published on Amazon in 2019. So the sport has both pushed me both physically, socially, and mentally. Wheelchair Fencing gives me everything to make my life complete, it is a social and exciting hobby TRY IT.”
You can keep up to date with all things wheelchair fencing on Jonathan’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube accounts, and can buy his book here.

jonathan collins and his duelling partner playing wheelchair fencing in a sports hall

How can I get involved?

There are several ways you can get involved with accessible sports. The Activity Alliance have a list of some activity providers, which is a good start.

I asked Jennifer Basford from CP Sport about the work they do: 
“Cerebral Palsy Sport is the country’s leading national disability sports charity supporting people with cerebral palsy to reach their sporting potential and putting people with cerebral palsy and their families at the heart of everything we do. 

We provide disability sports, such as football, swimming, athletics, bowls, table cricket and through our adapted sports of RaceRunning and Frame Football. We also offer expert, specialist support to parents, support workers, teachers, coaches, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, sport providers and other professionals on how to adapt sports for people with cerebral palsy.”
You can find out more about CP Sport on their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Disability Sports Coach are running a 10 week programme of remote activities and fun social events, as listed below. Visit their website to sign-up.

Disability Sports Coach schedule visit the website for more details

If you’re interested in finding an activity in your area and you’re struggling to find something suitable, give us a shout and we’ll do our best to see if we can find anything!

Have you ever taken part in an accessible sport or activity? Why have, or haven’t, you? Is there a sport or physical activity that you’d like to take part in that you aren’t currently able to? What would encourage you to attend a club or group?
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Replies

  • Chloe_ScopeChloe_Scope Scope Posts: 10,662 Disability Gamechanger
    A great post @Tori_Scope! Thank you!
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  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,511 Disability Gamechanger
    Loved reading this. Once the pandemic is over I hope to be able to take part in more sporting activities. There aren't a massive amount of choices near where I live but I have a couple of things in mind.
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  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,214 Disability Gamechanger
    I expect to see you at the Paralympics next year @Ross_Scope.

    What are you thinking of trying? 
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  • Ross_ScopeRoss_Scope Community Team Posts: 2,511 Disability Gamechanger
    edited October 2020
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  • chiariedschiarieds Community champion Posts: 6,896 Disability Gamechanger
    & the last one <3
  • roberttaylor570roberttaylor570 Member Posts: 568 Pioneering
  • Ami2301Ami2301 Community champion Posts: 7,153 Disability Gamechanger
    5th reptile found @Ross_Scope
    Community Champion
    Disability Gamechanger - 2019
  • 66Mustang66Mustang Member Posts: 4,306 Disability Gamechanger
    I found a reptile @Ross_Scope, my first one
  • WestHam06WestHam06 Community champion, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,149 Pioneering
    Hi @Tori_Scope
                              How are you? Thank you so much for sharing this post with us. Accessible sport is absolutely fantastic and I only discovered it as an adult. I have always loved sport but found it difficult to find any opportunities as a child but as an adult I have found a few. My favourite is wheelchair basketball, it can get a little rough but I don't mind the bumps and bruises, that feeling of being part of team, working towards a common goal, you can't beat it :) Plus the benefits are too many to count :) Thank you.
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,214 Disability Gamechanger
    It's good to hear from you @WestHam06 :) I'm very well thank you.

    Thank you for sharing this. I always think wheelchair basketball looks like great fun! I'm glad you get so much from it. Have you tried any other sports?

    I watched a documentary called Muderball once, which is about wheelchair rugby, and that looks absolutely brutal :grimace: Nothing wrong with a few bumps and bruises as long as you're careful though, it's all part of the fun.
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  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,214 Disability Gamechanger
    Be sure to check out @Richard_Scope's post on wheelchair football too!
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  • WestHam06WestHam06 Community champion, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,149 Pioneering
    Hi @Tori_Scope
                               Thank you, I'm pleased to hear that you are well. I would highly recommended wheelchair basketball if you get the chance. It is so much fun, occasionally me and a couple of my team mates can get a little over enthusiastic, one time it did end with being tipped out of my wheelchair but still so much fun, no one hurt though, just lots of laughing at my expense :)  The most important thing is everyone can join in if they want too, whatever their ability :) 
    I agree, wheelchair rugby looks absolutely brutal but it's on the list of one's to try :) I'll have to see if I can find that documentary. Thank you.
    I've been extremely fortunate to try other sports including; wheelchair tennis, archery, table tennis, table cricket and boxfit, which was a personal favourite. I also like to go out in my wheelchair and do different distances. Please may ask if you enjoy sports and if so which ones? Thank you. 
      
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,214 Disability Gamechanger
    edited October 2020
    I would love to try it @WestHam06! I had a friend whose twin had CP and they used to play it as it was something they both enjoyed. 

    Yeah, it was interesting. I can't remember what I watched it on, but I'm sure it'll be somewhere. 

    Woah, that's loads! I've done a few sports over the years. I used to really enjoy swimming and athletics when I was younger. I then moved onto football for quite a few years, and then Ultimate Frisbee after that, which I played up until this year. I've done some other bits and bobs here and there as well. I'm not that great at sport, but it's good fun and a really great way to meet people. 
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  • WestHam06WestHam06 Community champion, Scope Volunteer Posts: 1,149 Pioneering
    I really hope that you are able to have an opportunity to play wheelchair basketball @Tori_Scope and I'm pleased that your friend and their twin both enjoyed it :) Wow, it sounds as though you have participated in many sports and I completely agree with you that sport is great fun and a great way of socialising. I always think it doesn't matter whether you are good at a sport or not, it is the taking part that counts and within team sports everyone has their part to play to make it a team. Please may I ask if you have a favourite position in football? Thank you.
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,214 Disability Gamechanger
    Agreed @WestHam06! It's all about making it fun and being part of a team. I haven't played in many years, but I used to play left back even though I'm right-footed :D I probably should have been in midfield though as I was never that great at tackling and speed was more my strength.
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  • speedshrewspeedshrew Member Posts: 7 Listener
    I tried wheelchair rugby for two week, quickly found out why it had the nickname of "murderball", and after my back protested loudly, decided it wasn't for me! All credit to those who play it :D 
    I found Boccia instead.
  • Tori_ScopeTori_Scope Community Team Posts: 3,214 Disability Gamechanger
    Yep, it lives up to its name from what I can see @speedshrew

    How long have you been playing boccia for? 
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