Course:Kin366/ConceptLibrary/Wheelchair Sports

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Movement Experiences for Children
KIN 366
Instructor: Dr. Shannon S.D. Bredin
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Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Overview: Wheelchair sports are the alternative method of physical activity offered to people with disabilities. It allows physically limited people to play a sport for leisure or competition. They are a way out of isolation, to meet and interact with others while keeping physically fit. Sport is the most effective way to keep physically fit while socializing. Standing or in a wheelchair, physical activity is essential for all! [1]

History of the Wheelchair

Throughout history, many forms of wheelchairs have been invented. For those suffering from paraplegia, gout, missing limbs, infections, etc., these inventions were necessary to carry out day-to-day tasks. However, soon the wheelchair became a plaything, suited for the rich and lazy. The first well-known wheelchair was made for Phillip II of Spain (1527-98), who suffered from gout. Over time, the designs of the wheelchair became more complex, and were able to meet the many different needs of individuals with disabilities.

The Three-Wheeled Carriage

In 1655, Stephen Farfler, a paraplegic watchmaker, built a self-propelling chair on three wheels. This wheelchair was capable of moving under its own power, allowing the driver to move himself or herself from place to place.[2]

The Bath Wheelchair

In 1783, John Dawson of Bath, England, invented a wheelchair with two large wheels and one small one. He named this chair after the town where he was born, dubbing it as the Bath Wheelchair. However, the wheelchair he invented was not that comfortable, and during the last half of the 19th century many improvements were made to the comfort and mobility of wheelchairs.[3]

Late 1800s

Between the years of 1867 to 1875, hollow rubber wheels (similar to the ones used on bicycles), were installed onto wheelchairs. Rear push wheels and small front casters were also added, allowing patients to be pushed in any direction, increasing the fluidity and mobility of the wheelchair. In 1881, pushrims were invented: large wheels found on the back of the wheelchair. These large wheels let wheelchair patient’s transport themselves from one place to the next. [4]

The Folding Wheelchair

Engineer Harry Jennings invented the world’s first folding wheelchair in 1932. This is the earliest wheelchair that is most similar to what we use today. The wheels can be collapsed or folded inwardly to make a narrow and compact folded chair for either storage in a room or for carrying in an automobile.[5] Jennings invented this wheelchair for his friend Herbert Everest, who was a paraplegic. Together they founded Everest & Jennings, a company that monopolized the wheelchair market for many years.[6]

Sports Variants

Athletes that have a disability are required to use different types of wheelchairs for different sports. There has been much advancement in creating Sports Wheelchairs, designing wheelchairs that are focused on speed and agility, which can be used for a variety of sports such as basketball, rugby, tennis, racing, and dancing. These wheelchairs are usually non-folding to increase rigidity, have a good turning radius, and are made of composite, lightweight materials. These wheelchairs are not meant for everyday use, and are considered a special chair specifically for sport use.

Wheelchair Racing

Wheelchairs are a necessary piece of equipment for athletes competing in wheelchair racing and track and field events. Many of the wheelchairs tend to be very lightweight, with pneumatic tires. These wheelchairs are required to have at least two large wheels and one small wheel, manual steering devices, and can only have one large hand rim per wheel. The dimensions and features of the wheelchairs must follow the IPC Athletics rules [7]

Wheelchair Rugby

Athletes compete in manual wheelchairs that are specially designed for wheelchair rugby use. Any manual wheelchair can be used when beginning the sport, however, the game is easier when played in a specialized rugby chair. There are two types of wheelchair rugby chairs: offensive and defensive chairs. Players with more function usually use offensive chairs; they are designed for mobility and speed and have a front bumper to prevent other wheelchairs from hooking it. Defensive wheelchairs have bumpers that are used to hook and hold other players. They are commonly used by players with less function.[8]

Wheelchair Basketball

In Wheelchair Basketball, most players use a lightweight court sports wheelchair. This wheelchair is known to maximize mobility while meeting players’ individual needs. There are 6 wheels used on the basketball model, the 5th and 6th wheel are used to provide stability and balance when maneuvering the chair. The wheel camber can be adjusted to provide greater side-to-side stability due to the increased angle of the wheelbase and allows the players greater access to the top of the handrims, allowing for quicker turning. The wheel camber is usually set between 15 and 20 degrees. [9]

Indoor Wheelchair Soccer

Power wheelchairs are used in Indoor Wheelchair Soccer. These wheelchairs have a metal bumper that surrounds the front of the wheelchair, which is used for passing, scoring, blocking, and can be used for defense. The ball used is slightly larger than a regular soccer ball, and players push the ball into the empty nets. There are no goalies used in Wheelchair Soccer. Wheelchair Soccer is another sport that is becoming increasingly popular thanks to assistive technology.[10]

Wheelchair Tennis

When first starting Wheelchair Tennis, any wheelchair can be used. However, once invested in the sport, a tennis wheelchair is recommended. The tennis wheelchair comes in 3 wheel and 4 wheel models, which have an impact on the players’ ability to maneuver. It is suggested that the wheels on the chair be lightweight and rigid, as well as cambered from 16-22 degrees. This will make the chair more stable and easier to move. To increase balance, the chair seat should be slanted downward, and the players’ elbows should be close to the top wheel with their hands level with the centre of the wheel hub. [11]

History of Wheelchair Sport

Before World War II, the estimated lifespan of a spinal cord injury patient was a maximum of three years, with only a twenty percent chance of living beyond this predicted time frame. With modern advances in both medicine and technology, and the introduction of sport, exercise and movement in daily activities, most spinal cord injured patients today are able to live their lives out fully. The man originally responsible for the onset of new developments for spinal cord injured patients is Sir Ludwig Guttman. Guttman was born on the 3rd of July 1899 in Tost, Germany. At the age of 3 his family moved from the little village of Tost to Konigshutte, a town with a large foundry in a coal-mining district.[12] In 1917, Guttman was volunteering at an accident Hospital for coalminers when a man with paraplegia was emitted. As Guttman began to write up his notes he was told: "Don't bother, he'll be dead in a few weeks." [12] Guttman remembered that man for the rest of his life. Guttman dedicated the rest of his life to helping people with disabilities, figuring out rehabilitation methods that would increase not only their physical, but their psychological well-being as well. In the 1930’s as Hitler rose to power, Guttman was forced to leave Germany and re-locate his life to England. In 1944 he was asked by the British government to set up a spinal cord unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to care for war-wounded veterans. Guttman’s goal was to integrate these patients into society as respectable and useful members despite their high degree of disability.[12] He believed that reintegration into normal life involved participating in sport, and made it mandatory for all of his patients to partake in daily sport as part of their rehabilitation. Along with the physical benefits sport and exercise involvement would bring, Guttman was equally aware of the psychological factors such as self-confidence, activity of mind, and personal dignity that could also be enhanced.[13] Guttman believed that participating in sports would provide patients with necessary daily exercise and movement while also restoring their mental equilibrium. To foster this idea he introduced games such as darts, archery, snooker and table tennis. Later, more team sports like wheelchair polo and wheelchair basketball developed. This saw an immediate improvement in the strength, coordination and confidence in his patients. The team games that Guttman incorporated in the rehabilitation program soon developed into sports activities in which men, women and children could participate upon their discharge from the National Spinal Injuries Centre.[12] Soon patients from all over Great Britain began to play. On July 28th 1948 (the same day that the London Olympic Games started), sixteen paralyzed British ex-service men and women held an archery competition in the field of Stoke Mandeville. This gave rise to what would become an annual event, the Stoke Mandeville games.[13] The date chosen for this event was not by accident. Guttman had a dream of international involvement in these games, allowing disabled people to acquire fame like those of athletes participating in the Olympics. In 1952, Guttman’s dream came true. A small team of ex-servicemen from the Netherlands came to partake in the Stoke Mandeville Games.[13] The spread of sports for athletes with disability in North, Central, and South America was forged with the installment of the 1967 Pan American games in Winnipeg, Canada. This event would continue every two years and still exists today.[13] In 1960, a pivotal moment in disabled sports history occurred when the games for the disabled were held in Italy, the same country as the Olympics, under Olympic rules and in an Olympic stadium. The event was well received and given praise by Pope John XXIII. Due to the success the event would continue to be held once every 4 years in the same country as the Olympics and became the Paralympic games.[13]


Wheelchair sports in Canada began in small, local competitions such as the one held in June 1947 at the Deer Lodge Hospital, Manitoba. This competition involved archery, milk bottle pitching, basketball throw, ring toss, croquet and golf putting. This form of wheelchair sport continued informally for 20 years across Canada.[13] In 1967, the Canadian Wheelchair Sport Association was formed by Dr. Robert W. Jackson. The creation of the association spurred Canada’s first team to enter the Paralympic games in 1968, which was comprised of 22 athletes. The team was formed when Dr. Jackson noticed the lack of Canadian presence in the Paralympic games in 1964; after which Dr. Jackson personally assured Sir Ludwig Guttman that Canada would show its involvement in the future. Canada has been involved ever since.[13]

The United States

In 1956 the National Wheelchair Athletic Association was formed in the United States of America. This association was responsible for developing wheelchair sports programs, principally for servicemen injured during the war. The focus for NWAA during the first four decades was competitive sports opportunities in the identified “core sports” for individuals utilizing wheelchairs for mobility. [14] In 2010, the organization’s name was changed to Wheelchair & Ambulatory Sports USA in an effort to better describe the mission that the organization strived for. It was at this time that WASUSA created an arrangement with the International Wheelchair & Ambulatory Sports Federation (IWAS), an organization evolved from the original International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation. This relationship provided quality competitive opportunities for athletes seeking to establish themselves on an international stage. [14] Since the merger, the organization has managed to host the National Junior Disability Championships (NJDC) for junior athletes from the ages of 6 to 22. The NJDC is a week-long competition including Track, Field, Swimming, Archery, Powerlifting, Boccia, Table Tennis and other sporting events.

Examples of Classifications of Modern Wheelchair Sport

Wheelchair Rugby

Wheelchair Rugby is played on a regulation hardwood basketball court that is marked by boundary lines, a centre line, a centre circle and two key areas. Teams are mixed gender, and there are about 12 people per team. The game is played with a standard volleyball, and the end lines are marked by pylons. A goal is scored when a player carries the ball across the opposing team’s end line: Two wheels must be across the line and the player must be in possession of the ball. Wheelchair Rugby roots go back to the invention of Wheelchair Basketball and ice hockey. It was originally created for people with quadriplegia, and was known as Murderball, for its aggressive and full-contact nature. Wheelchair Rugby currently has twenty-five active countries in international competition, with several others developing the sport. [8]

Wheelchair Basketball

Considered the largest and most popular of the organized wheelchair sports. In 1948 the National Wheelchair Basketball Association (NWBA) was formed and continues to grow today consisting of three divisions for men, as well as divisions for women, collegiate, and youth. The United States alone has over 200 teams and 22 conferences. Wheelchair basketball is played using the same court, backboards, free throw and three-point lines as traditional basketball. Played with 5 players per side, the game starts with a traditional jump ball with possession rules remaining the same. The standard shooting clocks for both men’s and women’s games are 35 seconds. Given its popularity, wheelchair basketball is played on an international level in the Paralympics and World Championships.[15]

Indoor Wheelchair Soccer

The sport dates back to the 1980’s, with the rules being modified in 1996 to more closely mirror that of traditional indoor soccer. Sanctioned by the United States Association of Indoor Wheelchair Soccer (USA-IWS) the sport has more than 10 teams playing in national championships. In 2003 a classification system was introduced which grouped all disabilities; into five classes that they play within: neuromuscular, cerebral palsy and head injury, bone and joint (ex. arthrogryposis), spinal cord injured, and amputation. Game length is 50 minutes and broken up into two 25 minute halves. There are approximately nine players per team, plus coaching staff[15]

Sitting Volleyball

The sport originated in the Netherlands by the Dutch Sports Committee in the mid 1950`s. A combination of volleyball and a German game called sitzball; it is the fastest growing sport in Europe that includes both people with and without disabilities. The game mirrors traditional volleyball, with the objective of hitting the ball over the net, grounding it on the opponent’s side. The sport also shows similarities in the four key skills used: pass, attack-hit, block, and serve. Sitting volleyball has been in every Paralympic games from 1980 onward, since it was adopted by the International Sport Organization for the Disabled (ISOD) in the late 1970`s[15]

Wheelchair Tennis

Beginning in the 1970`s, the game is played in competition categories of singles, doubles, or mixed on standard sized tennis courts with the standard boundary lines and markings. The largest difference between tennis and wheelchair tennis is that in the adapted game two bounces are allowed before the player must return the ball during a rally. After its creation in the 1970’s, the sport quickly grew to 2000 competitors and over 55 sanctioned tournaments in the United States by 1986. In the 2008 Paralympic games there was over 100 athletes and 9000 spectators. The most common mobility related disabilities within this sport are spinal cord injury, polio, spina bifida, or cerebral palsy[15]


This track and field event was created by the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) and the sport can be played by those with moderate to severe physical limitations. The race is conducted on a hard flat surface consisting of a number of obstacles. The winner is the participant who completes the course the fastest, with the least accumulated penalty points or seconds. Every time the athlete makes a mistake at an obstacle, penalty seconds are added to his or her total time. Players can use either a manual or power wheelchair. There is a secondary track for those who cannot sprint race due their particular condition[15]

Sledge Hockey

Sledge Hockey was invented in the early 1960s in Stockholm, Sweden at a rehabilitation center by men wanting to continue to play hockey despite their physical disabilities. The same rules apply to sledge hockey as they do to regular ice hockey. There are six players from each team on the ice, including the goaltenders. Games consist of three 15-minute stop-time periods. Each team attempts to outscore its opponent by shooting the puck (a hard rubber disc) across the ice and into the opposing team's goal while preventing the opposing team from scoring. [16]

Wheelchair Racing

The sport of Wheelchair Racing was originally only a 60 metre distance, and was first included in the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games. As years passed, more racing events became available and in 1976, the 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m events were introduced at the 1976 Toronto Games. Wheelchair Racing is available to any athlete suffering from a disability, such as: amputees, spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy and partially sighted (when combined with another disability). Athletes are categorized in the nature and severity of their disability, and the races can take place on a track or a road.

Basic Motor Skills Used for Wheelchair Sport

There are five essential motor skills that must be developed in order for one to use a manual wheelchair. These skills are important for proper development, as they will provide the tools necessary for daily functioning, as well as participation in sport. The five motor skills are as follows:

Forward propulsion

Hand rim wheelchair propulsion is the means of transportation for people no longer capable of walking. To propel the wheelchair forward two rotating handrims have to be caught, pushed and released simultaneously while the hands are partly out of the visual field.[17] This is known as forward propulsion. This movement skill can be broken down into 2 phases: the propulsion phase and the recovery phase. The propulsion phase occurs when an individual creates a force on the top of the handrims and moves the wheel forward. The recovery phase is when the hands release the handrims, and reset at the beginning of the propulsive phase at the top of the wheels[15]

Stopping the wheelchair

It is important for wheelchair users to learn how to stop with control. In order to do this, the individual should lean forward and grab onto the front of the handrims as the wheelchair is moving forwards.[18] The individual must then pull backwards on the wheels simultaneously, controlling their movement by leaning back as the pull is made. In wheelchair sport this control is essential, for without control, a player during a game could be penalized or ruled out of control[15]

Backward propulsion

Backward propulsion is used in several wheelchair sports such as basketball and soccer. To begin this manoeuver the individual leans forward and reaches down to the base of the wheels just as he or she did in the stopping technique.[19] The individual will then make a short, rapid, pulling motion to begin backwards propulsion. Shoulders should be over the hands and all joints should be in alignment. Individuals should remain leaning forward while using backward propulsion to keep themselves from tipping over. This skill is widely used in many wheelchair sport team games such as indoor wheelchair soccer and wheelchair basketball. Mastering this skill allows the player to maintain a visual on the action taking place without having to turn around. This skill also allows the individual to see and avoid possible dangers[15]

Stationary pivot

Wheelchair athletes use this skill to change directions quickly during a game or activity. It is carried out by using a push-pull technique and shifting ones weight appropriately. The direction of the spin depends on which wheel gets pushed and which gets pulled, with the direction always going the way of the pulled wheel. This is an essential skill in wheelchair basketball that other skills will build upon, such as the bounce stop and the bounce spin[15]

Moving pivot

This skill is performed in the same manner as the stationary pivot, but it is used while the wheelchair is still in motion. Individuals must be able to shift their body over to the side of the intended pivot during the pulling action in order to complete this movement. Trunk stability is key here to keep from falling from the wheelchair. For example, to pivot to the right, one must lean to the right while pulling back on the right wheel[15]

Physical Health benefits of Wheelchair Sport

Regular exercise is associated with multiple positive health outcomes among persons with physical disabilities. A lifestyle that includes regular physical activity has been shown to increase quality of life and reduce risks such as obesity, depression and pain.[20] Studies show that physical activity is essential for the proper development and maintenance of muscle strength, flexibility, joint structure and function. Physical activity has at the same time been shown to slow the functional decline that comes with being physically disabled. [21] The consequences of inactivity include a decrease in cardiovascular fitness, osteoporosis, and impaired circulation. It is important to get children that are disabled involved in physical activity is to reverse the deconditioning that comes with impaired mobility. This will optimize physical functioning and enhance a child’s overall wellbeing.[22] For example, it is known that children with cerebral palsy are significantly weaker than children without this disability. Therefore, strength and weight bearing programs are recommended. These programs increase muscle strength, showing an overall increase in muscle mass, less injuries caused by falling when out of a wheelchair and a greater ability to complete activities essential to daily living. [21] One of the major concerns for children who are restricted to a wheelchair is the risk of obesity as they are more sedentary. Getting these children involved in a sport is a great way to curb these risks and promote fun, physical fitness. An excellent example of a sport that provides a form of aerobic exercise for children is wheelchair basketball, a game that increases cardiovascular fitness and creates a sense of community for the child. [21]

One of the major conditions that restrict people to a wheelchair is spinal cord injury. Studies show that ordinary daily activities of those with spinal cord injury may not be enough to maintain appropriate cardiovascular fitness. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among spinal cord injury patients. [23]This means that without participation in a regular activity program the patient will see a reduction in functional work capacity, which limits independence and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease as he or she gets older. This leads to an increased risk in obesity, lipid disorders, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes [23]. The major symptoms found in spinal cord injured patients are a loss of functional muscle mass and sympathetic control. This sympathetic impairment limits control of the blood flow and cardiac output. [21] However, it has been shown that with the introduction of an endurance-training program in quadriplegics and paraplegics, improvements in physical health have been shown. The principles for training someone in a wheelchair are very similar to training an able-bodied individual, although some adjustments must be made due to the fact that wheelchair users predominantly use their arm muscles. This is a much smaller muscle group than the muscle group found in the legs and trunk which are the common muscles activated in able-bodied athletes. Therefore, the training response is likely to be peripheral rather than central [24]The general endurance training guidelines for spinal cord injury patients recommends wheelchair pushing, swimming and wheelchair basketball, among many other activities. This demonstrates the clear importance that wheelchair sports have in the maintenance of physical health.[25] It has been proven that wheelchair sports help to improve mood state and physiological functioning, as well as improving long-term prognosis. On top of this, studies show that wheelchair athletes have a greater functional capacity than a comparative sedentary group.

Psychological benefits of Wheelchair Sport

People in a wheelchair depend on their upper body for physical activity to maintain an active lifestyle, which is associated with less secondary complications such as pain, fatigue and depression. Recent studies have shown that involvement in wheelchair sports show participants demonstrate lower levels of tension, depression and anger than non-sport involved groups. People who participate in sports demonstrate having a more positive outlook on their health and wellbeing, and are more regularly involved within their communities. It has also been shown that training programs like those used in wheelchair sports can counter depression and increase the subject’s self-efficacy. [24] Specific examples of the psychological issues that can come with living with a disability are shown in a recent study conducted on females with cerebral palsy. The study shows that females with cerebral palsy have a lower self-concept specifically in the areas of physical appearance, social acceptance, athletic competence, and scholastic competence. Additional psychological complications for those living with a disability include decreased self-esteem, decreased social acceptance and ultimately greater dependence on others for daily living. Sport involvement can counteract many, if not all, of these psychological issues by increasing personal mobility, strength and coordination, creating an opportunity for community inclusion and recognition, and developing a greater individual sense of independence and capability. [26]

Children participating in wheelchair sports have been shown to enhance their psychological wellbeing by creating opportunities to form friendships, develop a self-identity, build and express their creativity, and give purpose and meaning to their lives. There is also a marked increase in social adjustment, life satisfaction, community involvement, and family support. Getting children involved in wheelchair sport can generate independence, form coping abilities, garner competitiveness, and build teamwork skills. The Special Olympics specifically show athletes with a heightened self-esteem, perceived physical confidence, and acceptance from their peers when compared to non-athletes, demonstrating the significant positives that sport inclusion can bring [21]

Contemporary Barriers/Limitations Within Wheelchair Sport

Wheelchair sport participants have all seen a significant increase in opportunities available to them in sport on an international, national, regional, and recreational level. Competitions in wheelchair sports are now held on a regular basis. However, being that there are now so many opportunities hosted by so many different organizations, all with a different set of criteria and qualifications necessary to be met for participation, it can be seen that there has become an increase in confusion. An extremely complex infrastructure of sport for people with disabilities is making it very difficult for children and potential athletes to know which path to take, or how to properly and sustainably become involved within a sport.[27] It remains a detriment that there continues to be a hierarchical difference in public support, weight and structured organization given to mainstream sport versus sport for the disabled.[27] A major barrier comes in the form of societal stereotypes and low performance expectations. Hindered by the stigma of low expectations, it is seen that there is a lowered involvement of disabled people within group physical activities. This in turn leads to a lack of public awareness of current programs and opportunity for disabled sport. A major societal stereotype regarding involvement of disabled people in sport comes from the fear of them injuring themselves, when in actuality studies show that the likelihood of injury is no greater in those with disabilities than in those without. These misconceptions and barriers need to be addressed at a community level to properly integrate children with disabilities into sport and to eliminate these hindering stigmas from sport.[21] While opportunities have grown immensely throughout the years in youth sport, there is still an incredible lack of presence in youth sport for the disabled. Unfortunately, participation in sport and recreation is still very low in disabled youth sport, and even though there are opportunities available, they are often overlooked. Improvements in awareness and promotion still need to be made in order to make opportunities for all sport accessible to everyone. [21]

A major factor influencing a disabled child’s participation in wheelchair sports are functional limitations, high costs, and lack of facilities or programs. Research shows that the high cost of specialized equipment is the biggest reason for lack of participation. In order to specialize in a sport, athletes must own a wheelchair designed for their specific sport, which could cost anywhere from $500-$2000. Other major factors contributing to the lack of participation of children with disabilities in sport is a lack of opportunity for competitive sport. Because there are not many children that are involved with Wheelchair Sports, there is no opposing teams that are able to play against one another. However, even if there were more teams available to play, there is not enough funding in the public school system to support the necessary staff and training processes needed to start. For those involved, it has been found that there is a lack of knowledge and desire among instructors and community members to participate with and teach children with disabilities, and a lack of a definitive lifelong inclusive sport model and philosophy within public school systems.[28] There are fewer and fewer opportunities for disabled children to participate in sport within our school curriculum in the primary and secondary years. Without adequate physical education content being introduced early on in pivotal years of childhood development, there will continue to be a lack of opportunity for disabled children to learn fundamental motor skills and movement abilities. [28]

The most significant factors influencing a child’s participation in sport are environment and family. Families who are physically active tend to promote this in their children, including those with disabilities. Many environments are un-equipped to promote physical wellbeing for children with disabilities. Many areas lack adequate facilities, funding, and there is limited access to quality daily physical education for those with disabilities. Because there are limited resources available, it is necessary for the child's parents, teachers, and role models to help spark interest and motivation within a child to stay active. This can be achieved by establishing short-term goals, demonstrating variety and enjoyment in sport, and giving positive reinforcement.[21]

Strategies of Inclusion and Development in Disabled Sport for Youth

One of the most effective strategies to get children with disabilities into wheelchair sports at an early age is to focus on inclusion. Sir Ludwig Guttman used this strategy: he was motivated in treating every spinal-cord patient like a regular person, and encouraged them to partake in sports for their physical and mental well-being. The benefits of physical activity for any individual are great; it increases muscle strength, flexibility, minimizes the risk for depression, and allows for a greater ability to complete activities essential for daily living. If treating a child with mild to moderate degrees of cerebral palsy, it is suggested that they should be included in regular physical education from as early an age as possible. From a teaching perspective, it is best to use a combination of universal design and a differentiation design to promote inclusion in a physical education class. A universal design uses equipment that can be used by all students regardless of skill level or ability. The differentiated instruction uses a wide range of instructional techniques so that students of every skill level can get the most out of their individual experience. Classes need to be structured with some sense of individuality in mind and in a way that every child can understand. This means structuring activities and games to suit specific student’s abilities. For instance, if there is a child with a lower limb dysfunction a good strategy might be to let them play the position of a goalie in a floor hockey or soccer game, or a pitcher in a baseball game. It is important not to put the individual in a position like timekeeper for example, which fosters little, if any, inclusion in physical activity with peers. [29] The exact same combination of the universal approach and the differentiation approach can be used with children with amputation, dwarfism, or joint limitations or deficiencies such as arthrogryposis. Differentiation modification to your program could be modifications to the exercises being performed. For instance, a student with reduced muscle strength can perform modified push-ups as an alternative to regular push-ups, or allow students with arthrogryposis to swim or perform low impact aerobic activities [29]

In terms of spinal cord injured students, integration can become a little more complicated. The most important factor is to first obtain a proper assessment of the child in order to allow the individual to reach their full potential within the physical education process. Instructors must come up with their own rubrics and tools to properly teach and assess the functional motor skills of that particular student. One aspect that lends well to the inclusion of those with spinal cord injuries is physical fitness, as it varies between each individual. A good method of integrating a spinal cord injured student into a class is to set up a circuit training system, where each person can perform their own individualized program at the same stations as other students. This allows full inclusion, and for each student to be able to exercise at a comfortable and individualized pace. When dealing with more difficult areas of inclusion for spinal cord injured students, such as team games like volleyball, some strategies might include adjusting the weight of the ball so all students can hit it over the net, allowing students in wheelchairs to serve closer to the net, or more students could be assigned to each side to reduce space needing to be defended [29]

In order to foster and create an inclusive and welcoming environment for children with disabilities, it is important to involve them in decision-making and problem solving scenarios. Allow them to analyze a game and then make suggestions as to how the game could be modified to allow them to successfully participate. This skill is an important one because a supervisor will not always be present in order to make decisions for them; they must learn to do this on their own. This will also aid in self-confidence and foster feelings of having an important place within the game. A teacher may also allow the class to become involved in suggesting modifications, which aids greatly in the inclusion process as it allows every student to understand the value of making activities universally appropriate. Furthermore, this can provide insight and understanding into scenarios that the wheelchair confined student is dealing with on a daily basis [29]

Opportunities for Wheelchair Sport

While the general public may not be aware of many them, there are multiple opportunities for children with disabilities in wheelchair sports. Listed below are just a couple examples of the programs available in Vancouver and the lower mainland of British Columbia:

B.C. Wheelchair Sports Association

BC Wheelchair Sports offers programs for children, youth and adults of all ages. Their LetsPlay program offers instruction to children focusing on ages three to eight. Program offers instruction in basic fundamental mobility skills such as passing, catching, and throwing, as well as offering the complimentary use of their kid-sized wheelchairs. They also have a program called Bridge the Gap, offering physical education and sporting opportunities for juniors through to adults, with sport specific training available in activities such as wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, tennis, and track and field. They also offer an advocacy piece for inclusion of children with disabilities in regular physical education. Memberships to B.C Wheelchair Sports are free for the first year, with very affordable rates following that first year offering an affordable inclusion method for getting children active in wheelchair sports at an early age. For contact information, please visit:

Sport Ability

Sport Ability offers programs in most of the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, as well as in Victoria, B.C. for people with disabilities of all ages. Programs cater to children as young as age five all the way through to adulthood. Various sports programs offered include sledge hockey, boccia, power soccer, and sitting volleyball. Sitting volleyball can be played by those with or without a disability, which helps bridge the gap and build awareness between differing communities. Memberships start as low as twenty-five dollars, with specialized chair rentals for one hundred dollars per year. With the wide range of opportunities offered, there is sure to be a sport that everyone can play and enjoy. For more information visit:

B.C. Wheelchair Basketball

B.C. Wheelchair Basketball offers basketball programs that are focused on creating an inclusive environment for people of all ages and all skill levels with or without disabilities. B.C. Wheelchair Basketball also offers a school and community participation program that can bring wheelchair basketball into your school anywhere in the Lower Mainland of B.C. For more information visit:


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