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How to get involved in an accessible sport

Wheelchair tennis

Staying active is not only good for our physical health but also for our mental health. If you want to start playing a sport or being more active, there are many ways you can do so, even if you have a disability or access needs. In this guide, we offer a few tips and suggestions for how to get started, helping those with disabilities find a sport or physical activity that is right for them.

Find a local club or activity

One of the best ways to get involved in an accessible sport is by seeking out a local club or activity that offers disabled or inclusive sessions. Disabled or adaptive sports are specifically aimed at those with disabilities, and inclusive sessions are sports that anyone, disability or not, can enjoy together.

You can try searching online for “disabled sports clubs near me” and see what pops up. There might be some great clubs or organisations in your area offering a range of options.

The website Parasport is an excellent option, allowing you to search for a local activity catered to your specific accessibility needs. From football and aerobics to tennis and wheelchair sports, the filtering systems let you search precisely for what you want.

Parasport says the following about their goals: “We believe there’s a sport or activity out there for everyone – and by highlighting inclusive activities and one-off events which able-bodied and disabled people can do together, we hope Parasport can inform and inspire people to discover something new.”

Your local area might have some fantastic sports clubs you can enjoy, with websites like Disability Sports Coach making them easier to find. For example, on Disability Sports Coach, Londoners can search to see if there is a community club in their local area:

“Our Community Clubs ensure disabled people are more active, more often, while being integrated into their local community, allowing participants to develop independence and social skills.”

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Look for disability variants of your favourite sport 

Wheelchair basketball

It doesn’t matter if you have limited mobility; there are still ways to enjoy sports. Think about what sports you like, even just what you enjoy watching on TV, and then see if there are opportunities to get involved.

A great way to do so is by contacting a sport’s governing body, as they should be able to provide information on how you can start playing the sport. Whether it’s wheelchair basketball or football, you should be able to find their website online and some contact information.

Speak to your local council or leisure centre

Searching online for “sports for disabled people near me” is a great place to start but don’t discount asking your community for help too. Try speaking to your local council, as they might be able to refer you to disability sports initiatives in the UK or ones specifically for your area.

You could also consider contacting your local leisure centre and asking if classes, clubs or sessions might suit you. Even if there aren’t any disability-specific sports clubs in operation, the current activities might be able to make reasonable adjustments so that you can be involved.

Contact disability sports organisations

National Disability Sports Organisations (NDSOs) can be a beneficial resource for those with a disability looking to get involved with sports. They can provide advice and let you know about current opportunities.

There are seven National Disability Sports Organisations in the UK. Visit their websites to find out more:

Look at any relevant websites above and see what opportunities and resources are available.

Try online classes and sessions

Older woman doing stretches

You can enjoy physical activity without heading to your local park or leisure centre. However, if it’s easier, you can join several online classes and sessions, helping you to keep fit.

For example, Disability Sports Coach has developed a program called Active at Home, which is accessible to disabled people across the UK. It includes a weekly yoga and dance session and a quiz once a month for a bit of fun.

Yoga and dance are two activities that can easily be done from the comfort of your own home, and with tailored disability classes, you can safely get fit and have a blast doing it.

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Talk to your health professional

For those who haven’t exercised for a while, have an underlying condition, or live with limited mobility, it’s a good idea to talk to your health professional before starting a new sport.

By doing so, you can ensure you are looking after your health and find out what physical activity they recommend for your unique situation.

Once you’ve got the all-clear, you can start looking for disabled sports and clubs near you, with the confidence of a doctor or health professional’s backing.

When speaking to us, the senior communications officer for Disability Sports Coach, Rachael Woods, says to “consult your GP or a medical professional before starting any new exercise plan” and explains that “your GP can put you on the Exercise Referral Scheme, a 12-week introduction to exercise programme, designed especially for people with health conditions or disabilities.”

The benefits of sport for disabled people

Older woman swimming

It doesn’t matter your age or disability; being more active can improve your health and fitness. It goes beyond just being in better shape, however, as playing sports can improve your mental health too, by providing a new hobby for you to enjoy and an opportunity to meet new people.

Inclusive Sports Academy provides a range of disability sports activities throughout Solihull and the West Midlands. They spoke to us about their advice for disabled people wanting to get into sports and also highlighted some of the benefits:

“Getting involved in sports is such a great way to interact and communicate with other individuals, build friendships, become physically and mentally stronger and to help stay healthy and active. Individuals with a disability never have to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed to participate in sports because it is for everyone.

“I would recommend to someone who is interested in sports and wants to succeed in a specific sport, to not worry about what others think and believe in themselves and be motivated to achieve.

“The benefits of participating in sports can be, boosting an individual’s self-esteem and well-being, improving an individual’s concentration, and reducing stress. Sport changes a person with a disability in an equally profound way by encouraging individuals with disabilities to realise their full potential, and strengths. Through sport a person can learn vital skills such as teamwork skills and problem-solving skills, and also develop independence which can then help them in the future.”

Activity Alliance, the national charity for disability inclusion in sport, have put together a ‘Being Active’ guide and has shared some of the benefits they perceive as stemming from increased physical activity:

“Exercise may tire you at the time but in the long-term it will give you more energy. You may sometimes find that regular exercise makes it easier to complete your everyday activities, like getting up and dressed in the morning. It also improves sleep which means you get a double-boost to your energy levels. It helps memory, brain function and will reduce stress. Exercising is also a great time to do some thinking and problem-solving.”

Rachael from Disability Sports Coach also shared some benefits and encouragement to those who want to be more active: “Exercise is a great way to make friends and improve your physical and mental health, so don’t be afraid to take the first step and make exercise a part of your life. You may feel a bit daunted but so do many people exercising for the first time, so you won’t be alone. You’ll be met by encouraging coaches and lots of friendly faces, so what are you waiting for!”

READ ALSO: Why social interaction is beneficial for older people

Tips for finding an accessible or disability sport

  • Find a local club or activity
  • Look for disability variants of your favourite sport
  • Speak to your local council or leisure centre
  • Contact disability sports organisations
  • Try online classes and sessions
  • Talk to your health professional

If you are disabled or live with limited mobility, hopefully, this guide has provided a few helpful tips for getting involved with an accessible sport.

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