For many, around every corner there is the possibility of practicing any sport, climbing any mountain or diving into the sea at any time.
But for people with a physical disability, the possibilities may not seem endless.
Lack of accessible facilities, limited accessible transportation, and barriers around vision and mobility, leave people with physical disabilities with fewer options to stay active and have fun.
The regional sports organization Parafed Bay of Plenty works to create more opportunities for people with physical and visual impairments to participate in any sport and recreation they can imagine.
When sport cannot be supported in an existing sport structure, Parafed Bay of Plenty helps volunteers and athletes to start their own club, with Parafed acting as an umbrella organization.
Parafed also works with existing sports clubs to include people with physical disabilities by helping them create adaptive versions.
Sports that are disability specific like Wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair football and boccia, with adaptive versions like Badminton and Table Tennis, there is something for everyone.
Parafed Bay of Plenty hosts disability-specific sports on Monday nights at Memorial Hall and partners with a number of clubs to offer programs and leagues across a wide range of sports.
A youth program has also been developed, offering the opportunity for physically disabled young people aged 8 to 21 to meet and spend time playing sports and games together.
The program includes visiting schools in Parafed Bay of Plenty to provide activities that give children with physical disabilities the opportunity to try different things. Schools are also learning ways to offer activities to ensure that everyone can be included.
The Festival of Handicap Sport is a highlight of the year organized by the organization, bringing together hundreds of people with physical disabilities to celebrate and showcase disabled sports over a busy weekend.
Parafed Bay of Plenty chief executive Ian McDonald says a lot of people don’t know how much there is in terms of disabled sport.
âWhat interests me most is making people aware that there are opportunities for people with physical disabilities.
âThere are so many sports, and while there may be a smaller number, we try to keep logistics and costs to a minimum.
âThis summer, one of our priorities has been beach sports and recreation, as they are an integral part of the Tauranga way of life. We work with other groups to adapt as much as possible around the water – surfing, swimming, boating, kayaking, beach volleyball.
âWe have three employees, so we can’t do everything ourselves.
âThe key is to spark excitement and enthusiasm in others, and when you find people, clubs and organizations that you can partner with, you can make a big difference together.
âThis year, we have partnered with Hibiscus Surf at the Mount to offer adapted surfing and an opportunity to swim in the sea; it’s incredibly popular. The fun and enjoyment that people have is just amazing. That’s what it’s about.
Parafed Bay of Plenty is also involved in recreation, helping people find something they will be interested in staying active, whether it’s crossing the redwoods or reaching the summit of Mauao.
âTauranga City Council recently purchased a trail runner, and we look forward to working with them to organize a family day where people with physical disabilities can come and be taken in the trailer to the top of Mauao. Â», Explains Ian.
“For someone who has never been up there, it is an amazing experience.”
In December, Parafed received TECT funding of $ 21,000 to help cover festival costs, venue rental, repair and assistance with wheelchair replacement.
Ian says TECT, which has supported the charity since 2015, is a founding funder of the festival and sports programs.
âTECT is helping us fund repairs and the purchase of new chairs for our Monday night sports. The cost of a new rugby chair can be anywhere from $ 12,000 to $ 14,000, and with 15 to 20 chairs, it’s no small investment. Providing sports wheelchairs and the site is one way to facilitate the participation of people. But we couldn’t do it without TECT.
âTECT is like a founder for us because they have been there from the start, and I have always been very grateful. This money that they give out every year, it’s like TECT invests one and recoups so much by helping people with physical disabilities to develop and reach their potential – it is what it does for us. It is an investment with high added value.
âIt’s not only good for the athletes, but also for their families. If you change the way someone thinks and help them reach their potential, then you’re going to change the people around them – it’s a ripple effect. With the support of TECT, we are making an impact in hundreds of lives.
To learn more about Parafed Bay of Plenty and the sporting opportunities available for people with disabilities in our area, visit http://parafedbop.co.nz/.