Winnipeg Accessible Sport Expo draws hundreds to University of Manitoba

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On Sunday, an accessible sports expo drew hundreds of attendees to the Investors Group Athletic Center at the University of Manitoba, along with occupational therapists, physiotherapists and support workers.

Sports have been adapted for people with disabilities and active older people. The exhibition showcased 28 adaptive sports, including archery, cycling, basketball and weightlifting.

“Whether people have a disability or they just move around the world differently, they may feel that sport is not for them,” said participant Erika Rodeck.

The 29-year-old visually impaired said she doesn’t consider herself an athlete, but likes to try new things.

“I think these events show that sport really can be for everyone. It’s just about finding the right person and being able to do things in a way that works for everyone.” she says.

Rodeck recreationally swam and cycled with the Vision Impaired Resource Network, an organization that provides activities for the visually impaired, on their tandem bikes before the pandemic began.

Rodeck tried pétanque, rock climbing and another type of cycling at the expo. She used an adapted bicycle, which had a high-backed seat and allowed her to pedal and steer the bicycle on her own.

Erika Rodeck, who is visually impaired, enjoyed trying new activities in an accessible and supportive environment. (Megan Goddard/CBC)

Organizer Kirby Cote said the expo is an opportunity to build community and help people of all ages and abilities get active.

“We just wanted to create a space where people can come together and learn about all the different resources and programs that are available to them here in the city,” Cote said.

The event was started by Sam Unrau, the former executive director of the Manitoba Wheelchair Sport Association.

Côté has since contributed to the growth of the event, which brought together nearly 300 people on Sunday.

“There are so many barriers to participating in a sport, and it’s hard to just sign up for a sport and know if you’re going to like it or if you connect with the coach and the program. [and] if the adaptive equipment works for you,” she said.

Côté said having more than two dozen adapted sports and activities to try in an accessible space helps break down some barriers.

Rodeck said she sees events like the expo as an opportunity to gain the confidence and skills to eventually try sports in other settings as well.

“I swam with Blind Sports for a while, and I don’t swim with them anymore, but I love swimming. I’ve been able to branch out and do it in other places and in the community with people with disabilities. and not disabled,” she said.

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