Team Southampton Establishes Disability Sports Strategy!
This year the Sports Zone has concentrated on making our sports clubs more accessible. Part of that project has been to increase the amount of funding to our sports clubs to reduce the cost of sport to students but we have also looked at other barriers to participation.
At the beginning of the year we noticed that the Athletic Union, had a shortfall in the support it offered to students with disabilities. We created a position on the Athletic Union Committee to work alongside the Sports Participation Officer to remove the obstacles students face when trying to participate in sporting activities – Sports Accessibility Officer. Jake Bradley (Accessibility Sports Officer) and Adam Proudley (Sports Participation Officer) decided that the overall focus of the zone would be on disability. Jake carried out a report to identify how many disabled students are at the university, what types of disabilities our students have and what issues these students may face.
After reviewing this report we met with the Hampshire County Council’s Disability Sports Officer and held open disability sports forums to discuss the findings. We then identified key areas to work on and formulated a strategy (last for two years) to improve our sporting offer. The discussions acknowledged that in some cases potential projects would be limited by the expertise within our sports clubs and by the number of disabled students interested in a particular sport. However, the overarching principle was to ensure that if a student wishes to take up a particular sport, we find the best way to accommodate them within an existing club at SUSU or help them contact a local club:
– Focus on 3 flagship sports in the first year (Athletics, Boat Club and Archery) by making sure they are accessible to students with disabilities by providing financial support for adaptive equipment/coaching and in lobbying the University for accessible sports facilities. With the number of clubs increasing to 5 next year.
– Create a booklet which sign posts students to local clubs with the expertise in a certain sport. As we realize that our ability to provide a great sporting experience may not always be at the same standard as them.
– Provide training to our club Presidents so that they are aware of what they can do/ what support we can give to them if they have interest from a student with a disability – we don’t want students to be turned away!
– Introduce sports which have been adapted or created for people with disabilities such as: Wheelchair Basketball or Blindfolded Football.
– Run a series of sports taster sessions aim at increasing participation and raising awareness of para sports.
– Ensure that events such as the Bunfight are more inclusive and/or run a separate event that looks to drive participation.
The work done by the team has been exceptional and we hope that it will lay down the foundations for a more inclusive sports environment. Team Southampton is a Sports Community for any student to compete under, I want to encourage more students with disabilities to not only try new sports but to excel in them, should they so wish.
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