For many, there is opportunity around every corner to join any sport, climb any mountain, or take a dip in the sea on any whim.
But for those living with a physical disability, the possibilities may not seem so endless. Lack of accessible facilities, limited accessible transportation, and barriers around vision and mobility leave physically disabled people with fewer options to keep active and have fun.
Regional sports organisation Parafed Bay of Plenty is working to create more possibilities for people with physical and visual impairments to take part in all the sport and recreation they can imagine.
Where the sport is not able to be catered for in an existing sport structure, Parafed Bay of Plenty supports volunteers and athletes to create their own club, with Parafed acting as an umbrella organisation. Parafed also works with existing sporting clubs to be inclusive of physically disabled people by helping them create adaptive versions.
From sports that are disability-specific such as Wheelchair Rugby, Wheelchair Basketball, Power Chair Football and Boccia, to adaptive versions such as Badminton and Table Tennis, there is something for everyone.
Parafed Bay of Plenty hosts disability-specific sports on Monday nights at Memorial Hall and partners with a number of clubs to provide programmes and leagues across a wide range of sports.
A youth programme has also been developed, providing the opportunity for physically disabled youth aged 8-21 years to meet and enjoy some time playing sport and games together.
The programme includes Parafed Bay of Plenty visiting schools to provide activities that give physically disabled children the opportunity to try different things. Schools also learn ways they can provide activities to ensure everyone can be included.
The Festival of Disability Sport is a highlight of the year organised by the organisation, seeing hundreds of physically disabled people come together to celebrate and showcase disability sports over one jam-packed weekend.
Ian McDonald, Parafed Bay of Plenty Executive Officer, says a lot of people don’t know just how much is out there in terms of disability sport.
“Of most interest to me is raising people’s awareness that there are opportunities out there for physically disabled people. There are so many sports, and while there might be smaller numbers, we work to make the logistics and costs minimal.
“This summer, one of our focuses has been on beach sports and recreation, as it’s such a huge part of the Tauranga lifestyle. We’re working with other groups to adapt as much as we can around the water – surfing, swimming, boating, kayaking, beach volleyball.
“We have three staff, so we can’t do all that on our own. The key is to get other people excited and enthusiastic that they can, and when you find people, clubs and organisations that can you partner with, you can make a big difference together.
“This year, we partnered with Hibiscus Surf at the Mount to provide adaptive surfing and an opportunity to have a swim in the sea; it’s incredibly popular. The fun and pleasure people have is just amazing. That is what it’s all about.”
Parafed Bay of Plenty is also involved in recreation, helping people find something that will be of interest to them to keep active, whether that’s going through the Redwoods or getting to the top of Mauao.
“Tauranga City Council recently purchased a trail rider, and we are keen to work with them to run a day for families where people with a physical disability can come and be taken in the trailer rider up to the top of Mauao. For someone that’s never been up there, it’s an incredible experience,” says Ian.
In December, Parafed was approved $21,000 in TECT funding to help cover the costs of the festival, venue hire, and repair and assistance towards the replacement of wheelchairs.
Ian says TECT, which has supported the charity since 2015, are a founding funder for the festival and sporting programmes.
“TECT help us fund the repairs and purchase of new chairs for our Monday night sports. The cost for a new rugby chair can be anywhere between $12,000 to $14,000, and with 15 to 20 chairs, it’s not an insignificant investment. Providing the Sporting Wheelchairs and venue is one way we can make it easier for people to participate. But we couldn’t do it without TECT.
“TECT is like a founder for us as they’ve been there from the start, and I’ve always been so grateful. That money they grant each year is like TECT investing one and getting so much back by helping physically disabled people develop and reach their potential – that’s what it does for us. It’s such a big value-adding investment.
“It’s not just good for the athletes, but for their families as well. If you change the way someone thinks and help them to reach their potential, then you are going to change the people that are around them – it’s a ripple-on effect. With TECT’s support, we are impacting hundreds of lives.”
To learn more about Parafed Bay of Plenty and the sporting opportunities available for people with disabilities in our region, visit http://parafedbop.co.nz/.