The joy of water sports includes people with disabilities
The joy of water sports includes people with disabilities
Water sports such as diving, sailing, or kiteboarding evoke a feeling of freedom! You don’t have to travel the five oceans of the world to get in on the fun. Depending on the type of sport, your local man-made lake or public swimming pool can also do the trick.
A day on or near the water can be very relaxing.
Most people love water. No wonder water sports are booming in popularity! What makes them great is that everyone can join in. More and more clubs are committed to and take responsibility for inclusion. One successful example is the Deutscher Segler-Verband DSV(German Sailing Federation). The Federation implements and coordinates "inclusive sailing". The DSV governs several clubs and interested parties can find information on inclusion on its website. People with disabilities typically team up with a non-disabled person to embark on a sailing adventure. Perhaps the most famous of regatta boats in this setting is the SV14. It was specifically designed for people with disabilities and elderly people. The SV14 has two fixed seats with seatbelts for safety. A bicycle handlebar to steer the boat comes as an optional accessory. But you don’t necessarily need this specific boat to embark on an inclusive sailing trip. (For more on this, please read our WE ASKED interview with Elke Paatz from the DSV)
On Lake Möhne, people with disabilities can also learn to sail with the new SV14 "InKa".
The Yachtclub Möhnesee e. V. (Website in german only) is delighted about its new SV14 boat. At the end of May, many visitors witnessed the ceremonial ship launching of the vessel named “InKa”. Vice President Edwin Köhler explains how his club introduced inclusive sailing: "The Yachtclub Möhnesee started offering inclusive sailing opportunities in 2021. Initially, this comprised two local schools for children with special needs, including a school for blind and visually impaired adolescents and a school for deaf and hard of hearing students. We received positive feedback after both events, prompting us to expand and improve our options this year. Both the students and the respective club members were excited to participate."
According to Stefan Carl of the Advisory Council on Inclusion, creating and making the service a success proved easier than originally thought. "We hired a sign language interpreter to accommodate the deaf students on the day of sailing. It helped the non-sailors to learn about the basics of sailing. Once on the water, it was a non-issue since everyone on the boats managed without an interpreter and simply had fun sailing."
Prior to the event, the responsible parties pointed out that the Möhnesee (Möhne reservoir) is not readily accessible. Adds Köhler, "The Möhnesee has steep banks, which are always challenging for wheelchair users. [...] But the real barriers are mostly in people’s minds. Once you overcome them, things turn out quite well."
All it takes is a board, a kite, and water
Mental barriers also have no place in this sport: kiteboarding for wheelchair users! Anyone who feels the need for speed and excitement should explore this sport. Kitesurfing or kiteboarding was invented in the 1980s. All you really need is a large stunt kite, cables, and a board and you are ready to glide over water. As with nearly all sports, there are different versions and designs, but the basic idea is always the same. Instead of wearing a kiting harness, people with paraplegia can sit in a seat, as offered by the makers of SWAT-sports(Website in german only), for example. A special chair (sitkite) is attached to an adjustable board in this case. Click herefor some videos that might whet your appetite.
What water sports options are there in Germany for persons with disabilities? Things are getting better according to Anke Nellen from the Behinderten- und Rehabilitationssportverband Nordrhein-Westfalen e.V., BRSNW(The Rehabilitation and Sports Association of People with Disabilities in North-Rhine Westphalia)(Website in german only). The BRSNW coordinates activities pertaining to swimming, canoeing, rowing, and sailing, for example. "Swimming is definitely the most popular water sport, offering competitive and recreational sport structures here in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Rowing is likewise gaining in popularity. On November 7, 2021, a support point for the state was launched in Cologne, offering competitive sport structures. In the summer months, the BRSNW also hosts discovery days in para-rowing, which have received excellent feedback and created demand,” says Nellen. "Para canoe [...] is only offered by a handful of clubs as a discipline and is often limited to promotional events that take place two to three times a year. But we already have a very successful paracanoe athlete in Katharina Bauernschmidt, who competes for a club in Duisburg."
REHACARE trade fair visitors are already familiar with the BRSNW. The BRSNW organizes the Sports Center and invites visitors each year to discover different sports. At this year's REHACARE, the Association has a special surprise in store: "We have a paracanoe booth where visitors can sit in a canoe. The latter "sits" in a rubber tire to mimic the effects of water. We affectionately call it the "wobbly canoe". The booth will also feature a stand-up paddle board. We use a rowing ergometer (or rowing machine) to introduce para-rowing and allow visitors to experience the mechanics. This also marks the first time we showcase sailing in the Sports Center. Visitors can get in the inclusion boat, which was specially designed to allow people with disabilities and non-disabled persons to sail together."
The boat in question is the SV14, which we mentioned earlier and is a collaborative presentation with DSV. If you are enthusiastic about water sports, REHACARE 2022 is the right place for you.
Swimming is great for your health and increases your fitness
You don’t always need to visit a big lake or the ocean to enjoy a great adventure, of course. If you want to improve your health, swimming regularly is also good for you. Given the right assistive technologies, this is also an option for wheelchair users, as there are wheelchairs specifically designed for beaches and pools. This includes the Hippocampe pool wheelchair from Vipamat SARL. Users can roll the device both into the shower and into the swimming pool, facilitating self-determined mobility (click hereto watch the video). However, this requires an accessible bathroom. Unfortunately, not all swimming pools provide this option and mention this on their website. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area.