Able2Do Anything: Sports

Grant helps disabled people take up sport

Dieumerci Yanga with Ghazala Tanveer, his support worker from the charity Sense, at the Saif Boxing Academy in Rotherham, South Yorkshire

Hundreds of disabled people are taking up new activities thanks to a grant donated by a non-departmental public body.

Dieumerci Yanga, Kian Kotecha and Lin Wallace are just three of the many individuals benefiting from a £2.2m grant donated to Sense from Sport England.

Over the next 5 years the money will go towards helping people with complex disabilities take up sports such as surfing, goalball, canoeing, boxing, ice-skating and snow sports.

When he was three, Yanga suffered a life-changing seizure leaving him with severe brain damage, significant vision loss and a speech impediment.

Now 27, he is usually found at his local boxing ring in Rotherham practising his tactics to knock out opponents.

It’s a giant leap from his mental state just three months ago when he struggled with acute anxiety and minimal communication skills.

“We’ve tried a range of more gentle sports and none have engaged Dieumerci like boxing has,” Ghazala Tanveer, Yanga’s support worker, told The Guardian.

“He still can’t talk fully but since he starting boxing, he’s not only more independent – happy to go out and about with his mother – but he can communicate so much more clearly that his mum can barely stop crying: she’s able to ‘talk’ with him properly for the first time in his life.”

Kian Kotecha climbing a climbing wall

Kotecha, 19, from Leicester, has autism, ADHD and epilepsy, thanks to the Sport England grant he has recently taken up climbing.

His father, Piyush, said: “Kian can already climb walls that would be a challenge for someone who didn’t have disabilities.

“It’s amazing: he struggles to clean his teeth but he can happily climb right to the top of the climbing wall.”

He added: “Kian has just the same need for adrenaline and excitement as any other young man but life doesn’t often offer those opportunities to those with complex disabilities.”

“He’s so proud of himself: he likes to show everyone the photos of him climbing because it proves that despite his disabilities, he is capable.”

The grant is giving disabled people the opportunity to take up sports which they thought were unachievable.

Louis Wickett-Padgham, head of sports and physical activity for Sense, said: “People with complex disabilities are no different to anyone else in the world: they want to have their senses engaged and they want to be thrilled.

“People with complex disabilities typically live quite static, sedentary lives.

“To go from that to a sport that engages all their senses and puts them out of their comfort zones is incredibly exciting. It can feel, sometimes for the first time, that they’re really living their lives.”

The charity believes by joining local sport communities disabled people can improve their homelife, education, work and social life.

“The physicality and freedom of movement that comes with extreme sports is often the first time they’ve had either freedom or ownership of their own movement,” said Wickett-Padgham.

“The result is that their motor skills, balance and coordination can leap forward, massively improving their independence.”

Lin Wallace playing sensory tennis

Wallace, from Devon, has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and total vision loss. She has recently started playing sensory tennis, the sport breaks up matches in smaller pieces of activities focusing on bouncing and catching tennis balls.

“I’ve tried other sports but they’re just not exciting: swimming, for example, is just floating around,” Wallace told the publication.

“Starting tennis was a huge challenge: I didn’t think I’d be able to do it but I gave it a go and feel I’ve achieved something really extraordinary.

“I’ve started tennis aged 64 – there are a lot of able-bodied 64-year-olds who wouldn’t be able to do that!”

[ Since 1997, Sport England has invested over £2 billion of Lottery funds and £300 million from the Exchequer into sports in England. ]

Related Articles

Help support us continuing our groundbreaking work. Make a donation to help with our running costs, and support us with continuing to bring you all the latest news, reviews and accessibility reports. Become a supporter or sponsor of Able2UK today!

Able2UK Logo