The social fast track of sport for Australians with disabilities

Australia is strengthening accessible sports, but there is still more to be done, as the benefits go beyond health.

Find any community that is really cooking and you will find a sports club in the center.

And while it’s no secret that sport brings countless physical, mental and social benefits to participants, Australians living with disabilities are currently less likely to meet recommended physical activity guidelines.

Sport Australia’s AusPlay results show that 64.5% of adults without disabilities practice sport or physical activity at least three times a week, but only 52.9% of adults with disabilities do the same.

Community connection and physical activity are essential for every Australian, but with over 20% of adults living with disabilities currently not engaging in any sports or physical activity, Australia remains some distance from the podium.

Sport is a fast track to community connection for Australians living with disabilities, but a spokesperson for the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) says “costs, environmental barriers such as designing and transporting facilities and training insufficient for coaches, staff and volunteers can all serve as obstacles to participation ”.

“The ASC is working hard in this space to ensure that every Australian has access to sporting opportunities,” the spokesperson said.

“In 2022-23, nine national sports organizations for people with disabilities (NSODs) will share a $ 1,535,000 grant to help organizations such as Blind Sports, Riding for the Disabled, Special Olympics and Sport Inclusion Australia provide inclusion and offer more opportunities for people with disabilities to connect with sport ”.

Pierre Comis, CEO of Special Olympics Australia, says its core programs are aimed at preschool children through to athletes between the ages of 70 and 80, some of whom have been participating for 30 years.

“It’s truly a life-long opportunity to stay in touch … with the club community,” he says.

“The sports we offer range from highly physical sports like basketball, soccer or football, but we also have bowling, bowling and swimming, (for) people of all ages.

“We all know that sport is a wonderful way to build relationships, develop teamwork … it just brings people together.”

A registered, non-profit charity, Special Olympics has just over 50 multi-sport clubs across Australia and around 1100 registered volunteers, offering multiple weekly sports training, as well as access to competition opportunities.

“More and more assistants and supporters are actually coming along with potential athletes or participants,” says Mr. Comis.

Hiring Support Operator Patrick Neary first met his current client Ben Hayman 11 years ago during Special Olympics golf training. Hayman, 32, has physical and intellectual disabilities while a high school volunteer was nearby.

“I should have done 10 hours and have been doing it for about 10 years,” says Neary.

Through the NDIS, both men signed up with Hireup to do more outside of their shared passion for golf, including dinners and karaoke at the local RSL, outdoor music festivals, picnics and sporting events.

Hayman’s mom Joanne says golfing with Neary every Wednesday “is just great for her independence.”

“It means he’s not always with his mom … he likes social outings and being out alone, like a 32-year-old man should be,” she says.

“Ben never had a best friend until he started playing tennis and found his friend Jim. They are very similar and have fun together.

“Best of all, she met Patrick. Patrick was fantastic and he really changed Ben’s life. “

As he prepares to leave for his weekly round of golf, Hayman says it makes him happy.

“I’m happy when I’m on the golf course,” he says.

“I love hitting the golf ball down the fairway like Happy Gilmore.”


Sports and fitness are unbeatable channels for healthy, inclusive communities. Whether you’re living with a disability or want to support those who are, here are some essential resources.

● Hireup enables people with disabilities to find and manage their favorite carers, including those with shared interests such as sports.

● Special Olympics Australia has a wide range of programs. Inclusive Sport in Schools operates in primary and secondary schools, while Young Athletes teaches basic movement skills. Athlete leadership teaches confidence, life skills and public speaking. The Inclusive Sports Academy online learning portal provides training in a number of settings. special

● Sport Australia’s free online Community Coaching Essential Skills course helps community coaches create inclusive sports experiences for all.

Originally published as Because sports clubs are unbeatable for Australians living with disabilities