For International Day of People with Disabilities 2021, virginia anderson, chief executive of disability snowsport UK, writes for GB Snowsport about the organisation’s vision
2021’s theme for 3rd December’s International Day of People with Disabilities is ‘fighting for rights in the post-Covid era’.
You may wonder what this has to do with snowsport. These rights don’t just refer to work, housing, or healthcare, but also to the ‘right to enjoy a decent life, as normal and full as possible’.
The Snowsport sector can help respond to this call to action.
One in five people in the UK has a disability. Some are visible, and others are invisible disabilities. For many people adaptive skiing and snowboarding can unlock opportunities to experience the freedom and better wellbeing that snowsport offers. It’s good for families too, as it’s one of the few sports or activities where disabled people can participate alongside family and friends.
Why does it matter now?
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on lives across the country. Disabled people, who routinely experience problems of access in everyday life, have faced even greater challenges than most. The loss of local services and support together with extended periods of isolation have taken their toll.
Research by the disability charity Scope shows that almost half of disabled people said that their mental health, mobility, and movement has worsened as a result of being less active during the pandemic.
There is a huge audience who anyone involved in snowsport can help to include in clubs and sites. There are 770,000 disabled children under the age of 16 in the UK. That equates to one child in 20.
Snowsport can help people to get active again and rebuild their confidence and wellbeing as we emerge from the impacts of the pandemic.
“Lockdown and the closure of many exercise facilities has had a negative impact on my condition and mobility, as I’m sure it has for many disabled people. Skiing for me is not only a good workout, it uses muscles that I don’t use daily, and it’s also good for my emotional wellbeing.” Amanda, Disability Snowsport UK Glasgow skier
Disabled people simply want to have the same access to opportunities as their non-disabled peers. It is possible, and an inclusive sport for all can have a big impact. The United Nations tells us that “Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits.”
What can you do?
- Assess your facilities. Does your venue have an accessible toilet and changing facilities? Are the speed and steepness of your tows suitable for sit skiers?
- The right skills. Do you have adaptive qualified instructors? You can find out about qualification with BASI or ongoing coach development with your Governing Body.
- Community well. Is your website accessible, do you offer a warm welcome for all, and have you checked that the language you use is inclusive? Learn about neurodiversity and communication.
- Offer challenge and progression. Can you accommodate adaptive skiers in your club races or support someone to develop their skills over time?
- Get advice or partner with a specialist adaptive organisation, like our team at Disability Snowsport UK.
What is adaptive snowsport?
Adaptive snowsport can be a lifeline for people who need support to take part in activity which benefits both their physical and mental health. We have many skiers who can neither walk nor sit independently, or whose learning disability makes participating in mainstream sport impossible. Adaptive snowsport offers a chance to participate in a world that is so often full of barriers.
‘Adaptive snowsport’ refers to the adaptation made to equipment, types of equipment, or instruction that can make skiing and snowboarding inclusive for all.
About Disability Snowsport UK
Disability Snowsport UK is the leading adaptive snowsport charity which provides expert adaptive lessons and recreational groups throughout the UK, as well as delivering opportunities to ski and snowboard in a mountain environment worldwide. We work in partnership with snow domes and slopes to provide skiing and snowboarding for everyone, regardless of disability, injury or experience.
Disability Snowsport UK’s dream is of mountains and ski slopes free from barriers, where disabled people can learn and take part alongside family, friends and peers.