The UK has a wealth of thrilling challenges available to the disabled, and those who wish to try adventure sports can escape their comfort zones in stunning locations where the scenery is every bit as exciting as the action. With so many more organisations catering for people with disabilities, the opportunity to find an adventure sport which suits their strengths and abilities has never been so easy.
Inspired by participants in the 2012 Paralympic Games, which also took place in the UK, disabled people have a growing confidence to participate in adventure sports, sometimes to the same levels as the able-bodied.
The surfing havens of the southwest coast are the home of UK surfing and many of the schools in the region now provide lessons and training for the disabled. Supported by organisations and charities, including Surf Relief, these schools offer subsidised teaching on an independent basis for those with Down’s syndrome or Asperger syndrome or autism.
Some schools restrict participation to those under 25 years of age. The participant with physical disabilities can ride the waves in tandem with a qualified instructor. Bude in Cornwall, and Bigbury-on-Sea in Devon, both have surfing schools for the disabled. Younger disabled surfers also receive subsidised lessons at schools in Cromer, Norfolk.
An adaptability to suit those with disabilities and visual impairments has transformed the popularity of scuba diving. The disabled benefit from water supporting their weight and a greater range of movement. This makes participation easier and opens up a whole new world to those who may not be able to experience as much on land. The immersion of the senses makes scuba diving a true adventure experience for the disabled.
Charities across the UK have equipment and training available for those who wish to experience scuba diving and some organisations, such as Deptherapy, offer scuba diving to disabled or wounded veterans.
The physical demands of rock climbing may make this particular adventure sport seem less accessible to the disabled, at least at first glance. Thanks to the introduction of adaptive climbing walls and the experience of trained guides, however, rock climbing now enjoys greater popularity with the disabled than ever before – particularly those with visual impairments who have the help available to tackle even the most challenging of rock faces.
The BMC Equity Steering Group does more work than most to bring disabled people into the world of rock climbing and builds on the success of the GB Paraclimbing team which has two-time World Champion, Fran Brown, in its ranks.
For disabled persons with a passion for speed, mountain biking provides an exhilarating outlet on adapted four-wheel bikes. Start with taster days in the rugged scenery of the Lake District, or test your mettle at facilities in the Forest of Dean where the UK’s first-ever gravity mountain biking trail offers challenges in the stunning Gloucestershire countryside.
For those who wish to push the boundaries of the sport, the dedicated mountain bike trail centre in Coed Y Brenin offers an experience to challenge even the most daring of disabled riders.
Disability Snowsport UK has a disabled membership scheme that allows everybody from wheelchair users to their extended non-disabled family to experience the excitement of skiing. Riding down a beautiful mountain using adapted equipment is still one of purest expressions of freedom, and one that disabled snowboarders from inside or outside of the UK can also participate in.
The UK also has a number of indoor centres with training and classes for the disabled, in locations such as Glasgow, Manchester and Milton Keynes.
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