When it comes to taking up sports there are many choices available to disabled people but not all of them, of course, are suitable for every form of disability. Some sports are merely adapted versions of able-bodied sports and others are newer sports designed with accessibility and inclusivity in mind – but there’s certain to be a sport out there for you.

By Michael Park

In this brief guide we show you how to find a club which matches your ability and take a look at a selection of specific sports, some you’ll already know as Paralympic disciplines and some you may have never heard of at all.

Finding the right sport

Before you get kitted out and start thinking about competing, it’s important to find a sport and a club which is relevant both to your ability (and level of sporting proficiency). This is where Parasport’s handy ‘Club Finder’ online widget comes in.

The Club Finder lists more than 2,600 disability sport clubs right across the country and allows you to search both by sport and postcode to find a club which offers your chosen sport. It even enables you to sort by proximity, meaning that you can look for a club within a comfortable travelling distance for you.

MORE: www.parasport.org.uk/find-a-club

Decisions, decisions…

If you don’t know what kind of sport might suit you, here are a few tips to think about.


For most disabled people, the choice to take up cycling, either competitively or as a hobby is not a case of simply buying a pushbike but with the right equipment and advice it can be an incredibly rewarding sport.

Britain is famous for producing excellent cyclists, both at Olympic and Paralympic levels and we can surely expect more medals from the British teams at this year’s Games in Rio. There are a number of charities and non-profit organisations who offer taster sessions for people who are interested in getting on their bike.

Different kinds of physical disability require different kinds of cycles and it is best to seek expert advice before deciding on an approach but the benefits of cycling are clear. It promotes improved joint mobility, stronger bones, improved coordination and the all-important toning of muscles.

MORE: www.britishcycling.org.uk/disabilityhubs


Although it may not seem like the most natural choice for a disabled person looking to take up sport, sailing is one of the few sports where able-bodied and disabled sailors are able to participate – and in many cases compete – on completely equal terms. Sailing takes many forms, whether you want to cruise, race, or just take to the water for an enjoyable afternoon on a sunny day – and it can be done both at sea and on inland water.

The Royal Yachting Association’s Sailability programme aims to give budding disabled sailors the chance to experience every form of the sport from small dinghies to offshore yachts. There are more than 170 Sailability groups across the UK which have a wide range of accessible facilities and volunteers to help. Many clubs offer hoists, launching ramps and specially adapted changing rooms.

MORE: www.rya.org.uk/programmes/ryasailability

Walking Football

Although there are a number of footballing disciplines which are suitable for disabled people walking football is one of the most unusual and yet, fastest growing. Originally designed for people whose age no longer allows them to run, the sport is designed to help people whose physical movement is restricted while enabling them to engage in a team sport.

The ball cannot be played above hip height, meaning that it is much easier for players of all abilities to control it (and some variations of the game are played with goalkeepers and some without). Slide tackles are banned in walking football and, most importantly, running concedes a free kick to the other team.

MORE: www.walkingfootballunited.co.uk


With roots in bowls and the French game, pétanque, you may find that you already understand the basic premise of boccia. It is one of the most accessible sports in existence and is designed so that players with more severe disabilities are able to compete. The game can be played in singles, pairs and threes and most tournaments are gender mixed.

The object of boccia is to throw red and blue leather balls as close as possible to a jack which is thrown before the start of the round. The beauty of the sport is its flexibility since the balls can be moved with the hands, feet, or, if the competitor’s disability is severe, with assistive devices such as a ramp. ParalympicsGB took silver and bronze in individual and team boccia at the 2012 Paralympics and are hoping for more success in Rio.

MORE: www.gb-boccia.org

Sledge Hockey

Enabling wheelchair users to get out on the ice, this sport is one of the most popular events at the Winter Paralympics.

In essence, it is the same as able-bodied ice hockey with most of the rules being the same but obviously with a few differences in order to include those necessitated by the use of the sledge and the athlete’s accessibility needs.

Perhaps the biggest difference is the stick. With competitors closer to the ground the stick must be flatter and includes metal teeth at the one end to enable players to manoeuvre and propel themselves on the ice. It’s a fantastic team game with an intense, competitive edge.

MORE: www.sledgehockey.co.uk


Water is a great leveller and swimming provides both rigorous opportunities to exercise without much risk of injury. Whilst some people may feel self-conscious about the idea of getting into a pool, the health benefits are as numerous as the opportunities to take the sport further, should you choose to.

Swimming is known to tone muscles, builds core strength and helps to maintain a healthy heart and lungs, making it one of the most complete forms of exercise – and with a comparatively high number of participants there are plenty of opportunities to get competitive.

Local councils and organisations run disability specific swimming sessions to enable people to try out the facilities but if you’re serious about swimming then most local pools are accessible for disabled swimmers.

MORE: www.swimming.org/go/disability/joining-a-club


Found in the programme of both the Olympics and Paralympics, archery is another very inclusive sport as it can be enjoyed from both standing and seated positions and there are a number of adaptations for people with limited upper body strength to get into the sport.

The British Wheelchair Archery Association recommends that new archers join a local archery club (there are 54 listed on Parasport’s Club Finder) in order to receive coaching and guidance. Those with their own equipment are then encouraged to attend a training weekend at Stoke Mandeville where expert coaches, physiotherapists and classifiers are on hand to help participants get the most from their archery.

MORE: www.british-wheelchair-archery.org.uk

Getting Fit For Sport: The Gym

Those who are serious about getting into sport on a competitive level may wish to work on their core fitness before they do so. The Inclusive Fitness Initiative, or IFI, was established more than 10 years ago to support leisure centres in becoming more accessible environments for disabled people.

Gyms which carry the IFI mark provide a fully inclusive customer journey to all of their users right through from arrival at the gym to accessible changing rooms, training advice and adapted equipment.

Find an IFI Mark Gym: http://www.efds.co.uk/inclusive_fitness/ifi_gyms