Able2Do Anything: Sports

Carer praises accessible ice-skating sessions

Steven Duffy and his carer Graeme Ashwood on the ice

A Lanarkshire ice rink has been praised for offering accessible sessions for disabled people and senior citizens.

The rink, based in East Kilbride, is run by South Lanarkshire and helps visitors like Steven Duffy who attends the venue with his carer Graeme Ashwood.

Duffy, 36, was born with cognitive brain conditions which limits his mobility and communication skills, but at the ice rink he feels right at home.

Ashwood has seen how Steven “comes to life” on the ice.

He told Lanarkshire Live:  "I’m always looking for new activities for Steven and me to try, and work hard to do that in a person-centred way.

"That means that everything we do is based on Steven's choices - a key factor in developing his independence as much as possible.

"We had used the gym in the centre and Steven was keen to try the ice rink on a visit one day.

"Thankfully, I am a confident skater, which you need to be to handle the chair in the ice, so we decided to see how we would get on. It’s fair to say, he loves it, and we are now regulars.”

Ashwood has also noticed how Steven has built on his interaction skills at the centre with fellow skaters.

"As we go along to an open session, Steven gets to be on the ice alongside a variety of other skaters and they have quickly built up a great rapport,” he told the publication.

"They will often skate along beside him as he has a blether with them and wants to tell them about his aftershave that he has on that particular day.

"The staff there are also a big part of our day, from the admin to skate hire, to stewards and management they all make Steven and I feel welcome, and he looks forward to seeing them."

The carer went on to praise the facilities at the venue which includes a ramp on the side of the rink and an accessible toilet.

Angela Duff, recreation officer at East Kilbride Ice Rink said: "As we are an easily accessible rink, with the added fortune of a ramp for entry and exit, as well as lift access from the main centre floors, we are delighted that we can open up our sessions to a variety of customers.

"That means our open sessions can be attended by people like Steven and his carer or by groups from some of the local care homes. These sessions are frequented by several of our senior customers who are very welcoming of disability groups and get really involved, as we do, in making sure they enjoy their time on the ice.

"The joy and happiness we see on the participants' faces leave us all with a great feeling."

Steven’s mum, Christine, added her support behind the centre which has given her youngest son a new lease of life.

She said: "Steven can't communicate very well but his understanding and comprehension is good, and he loves being around people and taking part in new things.

"He has worked with Graeme for more than 15 years and they have a great relationship. He decides day-to-day what Steven does and always comes up with a varied itinerary for him. He is particularly good at thinking outside of the box.

"Even through Covid-19, or on the worst weather days, Graeme made sure he got out, even if it was just to slide down the hill in the snow. So, when he suggested trying ice skating, we just knew that, if the access was there, he would love it.

"It’s a fantastic way of showing people that, regardless of the physical or mental obstacles, they can still take part. It’s very freeing, and something he could not have done without the options and accessibility at the rink.

"We are grateful as ever to Graeme, but also to the team at the rink who are working hard to make sure that access and inclusion in sport are no longer just for the few."

The blades of ice skates were once made from the bones of horses, cows, deer or other animals and strapped to the feet.

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