An Introduction to Physical Activity For Disabled People

This chapter explores sport and disability, focusing on recent research on sport, social politics and sporting robotics. It examines the oppressed group of society that is disabled and looks at disability and sport as a means of resistance. It examines disability and physical activity in society as oppressor classes, examines disability’s hierarchy of human qualities and examines how disability can create and dictate certain types of social behavior. It then examines the relationship between disability/impaired people’s lives and physical activity. It also looks at how this relates with disability in the larger context of society, disability studies, and the power of disability. Finally it examines how disability and physical activity interact and change over time and space in a complex society.

The focus of this chapter is sport.

The book rightly claims, “Physical activity is the most common and potent vehicle through which people with physical impairment are able to assert their right to participate actively in the community” (p 13). This link is made possible by the organisation and implementation of sport. The author rightly states that the ability to play in a sport or be part a team is a key element of daily life. Therefore, the ability to play a sport is an essential ingredient to disability studies.

I would also agree. That is why I find it so difficult to believe that anyone can claim a right not to play sports. Is it not their right to participate in any sport? What about people with disabilities? Is it not a basic human right to be able to stand up straight, walk around, sit down without support, go swimming, go for a walk – or to engage in any other physical activity?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Paraplegics, like me, are rarely considered athletes. I have been paraplegic since 1997. So there are many factors at work when deciding how to design a programme of physical activity for disabled people. I will only mention a few.

First, let’s consider the environment. Is there enough space available for recreational pursuits, including climbing, jogging, walking and biking? Is there safety? Is the terrain uneven? Does access require a wheelchair? Do you need a wheelchair to get around?

Secondly, we need to take into account the disability status of the people who wish to participate in the activity. Is it possible for them to continue if necessary? Is the disabled person able to do this without assistance? Also, will the disabled person need assistance with mobility or can they perform the sport themselves?

The third concern is the equipment that will need to be used.

Is it sufficient to meet the needs of disabled people? All equipment will be required. Will some equipment need to be specially adapted and used in a way that enables it to accommodate the disabled person’s particular needs? What is the cost of fitting the equipment?

All of these factors should be carefully considered. This careful balance will result in a program for disabled people that meets all their needs. So don’t hesitate. Make the first step today!

Many physical activities are being developed for people with disabilities. In the past, there were very few options open to the disabled. But in the last decade, new technologies and innovative thinking by health professionals has resulted in new options that have enabled disabled people to enjoy sports and recreation. Devices that assist the disabled can be found to help them climb stairs, use stairlifts, swim, cycle, and canoe. Swimming is especially good for improving balance, posture, confidence.

The best thing about all this activity for disabled people? It doesn’t necessarily have to be done outside. Many exercises can be done on a swimming pool, for example. Swimming is a great exercise option for people who have difficulty going underwater. Many instructors offer special courses for disabled people so that you can have fun, relax, and enjoy this healthy activity regardless of where you live.

The most important thing about any physical activity for disable people is to keep to the program. No matter how enjoyable or relaxing an activity may be, if you do not stick to it, then you will never get the maximum benefits from it. Find a local gym and sign up for some classes. Then find some time to work out at the pool on a regular basis. If you stick to the program and make new friends, then you will have a new place to socialize and you might even make some new friends who know a lot about physical fitness!