All local sporting clubs should be looking to create a more inclusive environment for people with a disability to participate in sport at their club. The obvious reasons for this relate to how beneficial it is for those individuals in both a physical and mental way. As leading disability sport education program manager Kathy Tessier has said in an interview with Peter Downs from the Inclusion Club: “It’s important for people to feel they are part of something that is bigger than themselves and to feel connected and supported.” However, on top of these benefits to the individuals, there can be enormous benefits to clubs that heavily promote and facilitate the inclusion of people with a disability in sport as explained below:
One clear benefit to clubs is the increase in participation this will result in. There are many people living with a disability in communities all over the country, many of whom would be crying out for a local sporting club to strongly facilitate disability inclusion. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 20% of Australians have some form of disability. If one person with a disability was included and made to feel a part of a local club, others may follow. On top of that, the club would now have access to potential new officials, supporters, trainers and coaches.
Another benefit that local sporting clubs may experience as a result of actively promoting disability inclusion is increased Sponsorship. There are many businesses and companies in Australia that pride themselves on being associated with disability inclusion. Promoting your club as a leader of the pack in this area will give you the potential to attract a whole new range of club sponsors.
There are also a number of grants that are offered to local sporting clubs who actively facilitate disability inclusion (many of which you will find on the Sports Community website). These grants will assist your club financially when you practice certain initiatives which promote disability inclusion.
Sense of Achievement
Above all of this, creating a strong disability inclusion culture at your club will bring you a strong sense of achievement and comfort knowing that you are making a positive difference to the lives of those people living with a disability.
Kissing Point Softball Club
The Kissing Point Softball Club (winner of Softball NSW club of the year), on their website, lists a number of other benefits that your sports club could experience as a result of actively facilitating disability inclusion. These are:
- More members which can add a richness and a diversity to the environment
- Your Club will learn a new dimension of sport through interaction with or coaching athletes with a disability
- The experience of developing friendships and working with people who have a disability will make a difference in the lives of everyone involved
- Your opportunities for media exposure will increase because your club is inclusive
- Families and friends of athletes with a disability will become active, supportive and more aware of your inclusiveness, thus increasing participation and attendance at your Clubs events
- Your Sports program will develop better community relations
- Your colleagues and student athletes will gain new insights into teaching basic skills and reaching out to others
- As a committed leader within the community, your leadership role will be reinforced and enhanced.
- Awareness levels about the capabilities of individuals with a disability will be increased among your clubs administrators, players, officials and volunteers
One main reason why some clubs may not lead the way in disability inclusion is because they simply don’t think there sport facilitates people with a disability and there is nothing that can be done about it. This is very rarely, if not never the case. Policies and rules can easily be adjusted to promote disability inclusion in most sports and most clubs. The Play by the Rules website lists several examples of options and opportunities for clubs to encourage active participation by people with a disability, including:
- With minor modifications to address venue accessibility issues, a lawn bowls club actively recruits people with a physical disability to join their weekly league in which all members of the club participate.
- An indoor volleyball club has a designated training session for people interested in playing sitting volleyball. A coach is appointed and able-bodied players are invited to participate as part of their own training. All players are encouraged to also take a non-playing role in the club.
- A junior baseball team includes a young player with a range of disabilities. The rules have been modified so the coach can pitch to her from a closer distance and to allow for an allocated runner.
There are three examples of sport clubs actively practicing disability inclusion in some sports in which you may not have considered it viable to do so. So next time you think you would like to promote and facilitate disability inclusion at your club but don’t think your sport would facilitate it, think again. As stated on the Play by the Rules website “There are many practical ways to include people of all abilities in sport at a level of their choice whilst still maintaining the integrity of the activity”.
The Play by the Rules Website also reminds us that it is unlawful to exclude a person from a sporting activity on the basis of a person’s disability. This includes participation as a coach, official or administrator, as well as selection and participation as a player. The only exceptions to this are if:
- A person is not reasonably capable of performing actions reasonably required in relation to the sporting activity
- People who participate in the sporting activity are selected by a method which is reasonable on the basis of relevant skills and abilities
- A sporting activity is conducted only for persons who have a particular disability and the person does not have that disability.
More Club Participation Information
a) Club Participation
c) Benefits of Club Membership
d) Barriers to Joining Sports Clubs
e) Understanding the ‘funneling’ effect of Sports Participation
f) Re-engaging past Club members
g) Strategies Clubs can use to Attract and Retain Members
h) Disability Inclusion