The days when sports pursuits were a privilege of the able bodied only are thankfully a thing of the past. Today, across New Zealand and worldwide, there are countless opportunities for aspiring athletes and sports enthusiasts with disabilities, and a wealth of agencies and organisations who can support you in achieving your personal goals.
One of these is the Halberg Disability Support Foundation, whose vision statement is “All sports for all New Zealanders – No Exceptions” – Sir Murray Halberg (ONZ). This organisation focuses on disabled youth access to sport through their wide-reaching community programme, Halberg AllSports.
Halberg provides highly skilled sports advisers, specialist teacher and coach awareness and education programmes, a ‘one stop information shop’ sports club finder for disabled sports enthusiasts and families, events, grants, and their national Junior Disability Games competition. It is an excellent resource for all young physically disabled sports enthusiasts and their supportive families to tap into, and can pave the way for an exciting physical future.
Another fantastic organisation offering sport opportunities to people with disabilities is Special Olympics New Zealand. Their goal is to provide year-round sporting opportunities to both adults and children with intellectual impairments, through access to ongoing training, competitions and support.
Special Olympics specialise in thirteen Olympic style summer and winter sports, and each year they support over 7000 intellectually disabled New Zealanders to reap the vast physical and emotional health and wellness benefits of sporting participation.
Through this organisation, disabled individuals can enjoy the rewards of participating in alpine skiing, aquatics (swimming), athletics, basketball, bocce, bowling (tenpin), equestrian, football (soccer), golf, indoor bowls, powerlifting, snowboarding, table tennis and Unified Sports.
In addition, Special Olympics New Zealand holds around 200 sporting events, games and competitions nationally around the country. These range from grass roots and school level events to major international tournaments. And with their athlete leadership programmes, extensive health promotion, and special youth clubs, schools and transitions programmes, there is virtually no stone left unturned by this organisation in the pursuit to support your quest for sporting greatness.
For those in Northland with a physical disability, Parafed Northland is another great resource to check out. Parafed also operate a number of other regional centres in different locations around New Zealand. Their aim is, quite simply, “To support all Northlanders experiencing a physical disability to get involved in sport and recreation”. They work together with Sport Northland and the Halberg Disability Sport Foundation to upskill sports coaches in the community, increase awareness and profile of disability sport, form links with schools and sporting clubs in the community to improve disabled access to sporting opportunity, and to help individuals with disabilities to find and get involved with sports and recreations.
Whether you want to enjoy the social side and health benefits of grassroots sports, compete in tournaments around the country, or even strive to become an elite Paralympian athlete, your physical or intellectual disability does not have to be a barrier. This is not only your privilege, but your right as a human being, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Person with Disabilities, and the New Zealand specific Sport and Recreation Act 2002 and the New Zealand Disability Strategy.
How you can get involved
Without the dedicated support of patrons, sponsors and volunteers around the country and worldwide, none of the above would be possible. If this is a topic that is close to your heart, you can get in touch with Sport New Zealand, or any one of the above organisations, to discuss ways in which you can personally get involved with supporting such an important cause.