Sports and recreation can be an important part of life for people with disability because it can provide social interaction, physical activity and a sense of achievement.
- Participating in some sports can be easier if there are adaptive options available to suit you
- Many sports have adapted programs, teams, equipment and locations to suit people with a range of different disabilities
- You can contact local clubs right through to National sporting organisations for information
You can choose to play any sport you are interested in, but if you are looking for a sport that is adapted to suit you here are some suggestions for the different kinds of adapted sports you might like to look into.
Sports equipment comes in all shapes and sizes for all different sports and adapted equipment is key to many sports that support players with disability.
This can be everything from a lowered basketball hoop used for wheelchair basketball to paddles rather than rackets used to play the ball in adaptive tennis or pickleball.
Having a wheelchair designed for the sport you are playing is also common, such as those designed for easy use in wheelchair tennis or basketball.
Winter sports often use adapted equipment, such as sleds in hockey that players sit in or adaptive skis to take down the snow slopes.
Adapted sporting environments provide a wider range of sports you can choose from in addition to the sports using adapted equipment. The field, space, surface or dimensions of a court used to play a sport can be adapted to better suit players.
For example, soccer can be played indoors on a smaller field for people who are blind or vision impaired so that they can focus on the noise made by the ball.
Wheelchair rugby is played on an indoor basketball court, rather than grass, to allow the wheels to work better.
Blind table tennis is played with a wall that the ball must pass under, rather than a net for the ball to go over, and sitting volleyball is played with a net that is lower to the ground to make it easier to get the ball over the net from the seated position, as well as a smaller court.
Guides and supporters
In some sports people with disability are able to have a guide, supporter or assistant alongside them to allow them to fully participate in the sport.
People who are blind or have vision impairment may use guides to play their sport, such as a running or archery guide, golf caddy, or pilot on a tandem track cycling bike.
Supporters or assistants may be used in other sports to position equipment for people with limited movement in their limbs, for example a person using a sit ski might have help to get on and off the ski lift and to strap themselves into the bucket of the sit ski.
All sports have classifications of some kind – for example age groups, or gender based competitions – but some sports also have separate classifications for people with disability so that players can compete on equal grounds.
A good example of a sport that uses classifications is swimming. Swimmers with disability can be split into 19 classifications in Australia, but all use the same pool and can participate in the same events of freestyle, backstroke and individual medley.
Athletics, which includes lots of different types of competitions, also has classes that place athletes with
Strength sports done in gyms are also becoming more popular, and some competitions are introducing seated classifications for people who want to participate but can’t compete from a standing position.
Sports may also have separate competitions with different rules that adapt the sport to suit people with specific disabilities. For example, blind cricket follows the same principles as non-adapted cricket but uses a smaller oval plus a range of rules such as the bowler shouting to let the batsman know they have bowled the ball and bowling underarm, to make the sport accessible for people with a vision impairment.
There are some unique and creative sports that have been developed to suit people with specific disabilities.
Goalball is an example of a sport created entirely by and for people with disability and is an official Paralympic sport. It involves people who are visually impaired rolling a ball filled with bells along the ground at the opposition team in an attempt to score a goal by evading the opposition’s defence.
Other Paralympic sports that are unique include hand cycling, where athletes use a reclined tricycle powered by pedalling with their hands to move around a track, and Bocchia – an adapted version of bocce in which people with affected motor skills push, kick, throw or roll a leather ball towards the jack and may have an assistant to help them position the ball.
While it is not yet a Paralympic sport, frame running is taking off as a popular adapted sport for people with muscular conditions and involves runners using specially designed frames to race around the track.
If any of these examples of adaptive sports interest you it is best to do some research on whether there are local clubs in your area and to contact them for more information.
If you’re not sure what sport you would like to have a go at you can start by contacting some of the bigger adaptive sporting organisations in Australia.
Disability Sports Australia is the peak National body for sports that are adapted for people with physical disability.
Special Olympics Australia runs programs specifically for people with intellectual and developmental disability in a wide range of sports.
Blind Sports Australia is the National organisation for sports played by blind and vision-impaired Australians, such as blind cricket and blind golf.
Some examples of the National bodies that target specific sports rather than disabilities include:
- Riding for the Disabled Association of Australia
- Athletics Australia
- Swimming Australia
- Bocchia Australia
Have you found a sport that you love? Tell us in the comments below.