Sports for all – getting active at the pool and on the pitch
With physical activity known to be vital for physical and mental health and wellbeing, disabled people supported by Livability are not content with sitting still.
With the London Marathon coming up fast, we’ll see people of all ages and abilities crossing the finishing line this weekend. Not everyone can run a marathon, and not all of us will – but when it comes to disability the people we support do not see this as a barrier to being sporty.
But it can be harder for disabled people to find and access sporting opportunities – reflected in the statistics, which show that disabled people are twice as likely to be physically inactive than non-disabled people*. That’s where Livability can work together and with the people we support to get out and get active.
Take Peter, who is an ardent Arsenal fan. Peter’s cerebral palsy means his movement is largely limited to his upper body but he wanted to do more than just watch football. With Richard, activities coordinator at Livability Brookside, where Peter lives, Peter found a local wheelchair football club for disabled people. It’s part of a national league ‘and highly competitive’, says Richard.
Peter began training at the club, which he says is ‘very friendly’. He uses a specially designed, very fast wheelchair, fitted with a large bumper at the front and controls the wheelchair to dribble the ball. Peter, who has very limited verbal communication, demonstrates how he swings the chair at an angle and turns sharply to hit the ball with considerable force, when he wants to shoot.
Being part of the club is important to Peter and he feels his motor skills have improved with the demands of controlling and manoeuvring a very fast chair. ‘Sometimes sustaining things can be hard but Pete’s really committed to this and is very much part of things there,’ says Richard.
Livability’s experience with sport and disability means staff can sometimes introduce the people we support to something completely new. Boccia is a Paralympic sport derived from bowling and something that Livability’s Dorset school, Victoria Education Centre. has excelled in, playing at national level.
When James came to live at Livability Netteswell Rectory in Essex, he was keen to try a range of activities. ‘I’d always liked bowling but my disability means I can’t really play, so I just watched,’ he explains. ‘Then I heard about boccia from a member of staff here – I’d never heard of it before.’ With support from staff member Michael, James tried out a local club. ‘I’ve been going for a year now,’ he says. ‘It takes a bit of time to learn but I did my first tournament recently. I was quite scared! But it was good and I was fairly pleased with how I played.’
Lynn’s return to the pool
Back at Livability Brookside, Peter’s housemate Lynn has recently been supported to return to swimming, something she’s loved all her life. The National Orthopaedic Hospital’s swimming pool is conveniently close to Livability Brookside.
Livability Brookside provided the opportunity from their own budget, then in 2019 Livability made a strong case for local authority funding which was approved. It was clear that this activity would improve Lynn’s health and wellbeing, and help her weight management programme. ‘We needed to send two staff to support Lynn but we knew it was worth it.’ says Brookside deputy manager Majlinda.
Lynn beams as she talks about her swim sessions: ‘The hoist gets me into the pool and as soon as I’m in the water, I’m on my back and I’m off! Up and down the pool for a whole hour!’ Lynn’s sister Carol adds that ‘our whole family is absolutely thrilled that Lynn has been able to return to swimming. There have been lots of hurdles to cross to achieve this goal. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!’
Now the local authority has agreed to fund Lynn’s swimming, making this sustainable. ‘Yes, that was a bit of a victory for us!’ says Richard, activities coordinator, who is passionate about giving every opportunity to the people he supports. ‘Sitting around getting bored is just not acceptable at Livability!’ adds deputy manager Majlinda.