A guide to accessible sport in Victoria

Sports Sports | Lifestyle

Check out these local accessible sport programs

Graphic by Sie Douglas-Fish.

The Paralympics are upon us, with opening ceremonies taking place on March 4. With the televising of these inspiring athletes comes an increase in awareness for adapted and inclusive athletics. The more time I spend thinking about the Paralympics, the more I come to acknowledge the important role that Paralympic athletes play in demonstrating the diverse range of participation in sport which can occur. 

There is immense importance in creating accessible, inclusive opportunities in the space of athletics. As I continued to think on the subject, I found myself wondering what kind of resources for accessible sport are available locally. 

Upon diving into the world of accessible sport, I realized there are a whole variety of levels at which sport can be pursued. Whether you’re searching for an introductory program, a casual sport, or a professional athletic career, there are opportunities right here in Victoria. Here’s everything you need to know about accessible athletics in Victoria.

A quick Internet search for “Accessible Sport” first presents the program SportAbility. SportAbility is a registered charity, providing individuals with accessible physical activity programs. 

Focused on a British Columbian demographic, SportAbility believes in sport accessibility for all provincial residents with physical disabilities. While most of their programs operate in Vancouver, there are options for programs located in Victoria through organizations like Victoria Wheelchair Sports. Currently, they provide two sports in the Victoria area: Para ice hockey and boccia.

Victoria Wheelchair Sports is its own organization as well, providing a number of wheelchair-accessible sports like rugby, ice hockey, and basketball. Financially supported by B.C.’s provincial government, this non-profit organization operates on a membership basis. Registration is available online, with an option to select any and all sports which might be of interest. Victoria Wheelchair Sports also provides wheelchair-specific athletic therapy treatment for para athletes at reduced rates through the Camosun College Athletic and Exercise Therapy Clinic. 

CanAssist is a program run through the University of Victoria whose intentions are dedicated to “helping people with disabilities improve their quality of life, with a focus on promoting independence and inclusion.” The organization is a donations-based program which provides inclusive spaces for those with disabilities and their families. 

For sport-specific opportunities, CanAssist is partnered with the Centre for Athletics, Recreation, and Special Abilities (CARSA) on the UVic campus to develop programs catered towards inclusivity. There are a number of sport and activity programs designed to provide opportunities for anyone to participate, ranging from such activities as adapted sports, inclusive dance classes, and opportunities to try wheelchair sports. 

The City of Victoria website explains that “Recreation is essential for the health and well-being of everyone.” The City of Victoria provides the Swim Inclusion program at Crystal Pool, which provides access to swimming lessons for individuals of all swimming abilities. There are group class, small class, and private lesson options, allowing individuals to select the option best suited to their abilities and skill levels. The Swim Inclusion program also provides accessible parking spaces, lifts on staircases to change rooms and pool decks, and an aquatic lift providing access to the leisure pool, main pool, and hot tub. 

Another available opportunity for accessible sport, which is unique to Victoria, is the Para PowerPLAY program, run through OneAbility. This program provides individuals with access to a variety of adapted sports. Targeted at the 15-25 age demographic, this multi-sport program includes para rowing, wheelchair basketball, and para ice hockey. Providing access to sports which might not otherwise be accessible, in terms of necessary equipment or resources, Para PowerPLAY is a unique opportunity to explore more remote sports. The current program is in operation from February to June, 2022. 

For those with high-performance athletic intentions, there are also programs special to Victoria that provide opportunities to compete as a professional athlete. The para national training centre for the Canadian national rowing team is located right here in Victoria, training on Elk Lake. This provides access for athletes to engage in adapted sport, training individuals to perform at the Olympic level. Para Rowing Canada welcomes individuals who wish to try para rowing to send them a message via their official Instagram account. 

Everyone should have access to sport and activity, at any level. There are opportunities which exist to ensure no one has to go without recreation due to any sort of inhibiting factor. The Paralympics are a timely reminder that athletics can and should be accessible for everyone. 

There is no limit to the success one can achieve when presented with the right resources.