Many organisations now exist to help people with a disability find opportunities in sport. From archery to athletics and ice hockey to equestrian, there are dozens of sports and thousands of clubs in the UK ready to welcome new participants of all standards.
Why is it good for you?
“Being physically active is a lifestyle choice proven to provide social and personal benefits,” says the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS).
Physical activity boosts the immune system, provides natural pain relief, improves strength and balance, and can also help to build confidence and reduce stress.
The range of sports on offer means there is something for everyone, whether you prefer the accuracy challenge of archery, the intensity of judo, the artistry of para-equestrian or the physicality of wheelchair basketball.
The Parasport website should be your first port of call for disability sports opportunities in the UK. Read Parasport’s guide to the sports available then use its club finder to search for local clubs in more than two dozen sports by postcode.
The EFDS website maintains a list of events across England if you want to see a sport for yourself or try it out.
Visit the Disability Sport Wales Community for more information about events and clubs in Wales. Scottish Disability Sport provides a sport-by-sport list of contacts as well as regional opportunities.
Disability Sports NI keeps a list of local opportunities you can find in Northern Ireland.
Disability sport encompasses dozens of activities and disciplines – here are four examples of sports you can get into:
IPC stands for the International Paralympic Committee, whose athletics programme includes a wide range of events spread across different classifications according to your type and degree of disability.
Amputee runners and wheelchairs racers are the best-known IPC athletes, but field events also exist.
British Athletics operates its Parallel Success programme to develop disability sport across the UK, with separate initiatives for each of the home nations.
More info: British Athletics – Parallel Success
Britain is a world power in paracycling, led by the likes of Dame Sarah Storey, who won four gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympics as well as winning able-bodied World Cup gold in the lead-up to the Games.
Paracycling takes various forms, including standard track and road cycling (both events in which Storey excelled) alongside handcycling, where competitors power the bike with their hands and arms. Tandem bikes are used for blind or visually impaired athletes and their assistants.
British Cycling has pledged to encourage and support the cycling ambitions of anyone with a disability and can help with coaching and events.
More info: British Cycling
The Paralympic form of ice hockey, sledge hockey sees players propel themselves around the ice using small hand-held sticks which double as picks to grip the surface.
The game is fast-paced and, strapped to the sledge, players have the same range of movement whether disabled or not.
Team GB has competed at three Paralympic Winter Games sledge hockey tournaments, and there are a growing number of sledge hockey clubs at rinks around the UK.
More info: British Sledge Hockey Association
Wheelchair basketball is one of the biggest Paralympic sports, renowned for its athletes’ no-nonsense approach on the court in a physical and strenuous game.
Able-bodied players are encouraged to take part while the sport also caters for paraplegics, spina bifida, amputees, brittle bones, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.
British Wheelchair Basketball offers details on ways into the sport and includes a UK-wide club finder.
More info: British Wheelchair Basketball
A competition held for disabled people at England’s Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1948, to tie in with that year’s London Olympics, became the forerunner of the modern Paralympic Games.
However, almost a quarter of a century earlier, the origins of the Deaflympics had been established with the “Silent Games” of 1924 in Paris.
The International Paralympic Committee was founded in 1989 and now has 174 different national committees among its ranks.
Britain’s first Paralympic gold medal was won by archer Margaret Maughan in 1960, the year the modern Paralympics as we know them were born in Rome.