The Ontario Wheelchair Sports Association (OWSA) provides a program called Bridging the Gap, encourages individuals to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle through wheelchair sport by educating individuals with physical disabilities through awareness and experience. OWSA governs four wheelchair sports: wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair rugby and athletics (wheelchair racing and throws).
Wheelchair sports are designed for people with physical disabilities, which means they have mobility impairments (individuals with intellectual disabilities would participate in Special Olympic programs). Examples of a physical disability include spinal cord injuries (quadriplegics and paraplegics), cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and amputees. Not all wheelchair athletes use wheelchairs; some use mobility devices such as walkers or canes. Some don’t use a mobility device at all.
Bridging the Gap (BTG) provides awareness and opportunities for people to try wheelchair sports through “Have A Go Sessions” and Developmental programs.
Have A Go Sessions
Have A Go sessions take place during the day or in the evening. Locations for these sessions include rehabilitation centres, schools, and community centres. Have A Go (HAG) sessions include a presentation on the world of wheelchair sports, demonstrations and the opportunity to try the sport chairs. HAG sessions can be tailored to the available space and the target audience/participants. OWSA provides all the necessary equipment to make it a positive active learning experience.
Developmental Programs can also be called “Sport Specific Sessions”. Once individuals have found a sport of interest, they can begin to learn and play the sport on an ongoing basis. Sport specific sessions are an opportunity to build skills in a fun and supportive atmosphere with other individuals that are new to the sport. These sessions usually last eight weeks, and participants play a specific sport for 1-2 hours at a certain day and time each week.
Interested in wheelchair sports?
If you have a physical disability, or know someone who does, Bridging The Gap will bring wheelchair sports to your community and/or help you find local programs. Contact us to talk about wheelchair sports.
If you have a student with a physical disability, Bridging The Gap will come to your gym class with sport chairs and facilitate the class. Contact us to learn about the benefits of a session, to set up a session or for more information.
Bridging The Gap will bring sport chairs and equipment to facilitate wheelchair sport sessions in your Rehabilitation Centre. Contact us to ask how.
Bridging The Gap will go into your community and provide safe opportunities to try wheelchair sports. Contact us to set up a session or if you have questions.
Bridging The Gap provides opportunities that may be of interest to your clients. Contact us to discuss how we can work together, or if you have any questions.
Interested in coaching?
Coaching opportunities are available in wheelchair sports. Bridging The Gap needs coaches, supports coaching development and can help you find coaching opportunities in your area. Contact us for more information.
Sport chairs are provided to members of OWSA at a nominal monthly fee. Individuals may be eligible to borrow a basketball chair, tennis chair, rugby chair, or racing chair.
Affordable access to sport-specific wheelchairs is a major financial barrier for individuals who want to live an active, healthy lifestyle. Sport-specific wheelchairs are a major investment costing, in some cases, in excess of $3000. In order to meaningfully participate in wheelchair sport, individuals require chairs that optimize mobility, stability, and ability to perform the skills. Bridging the Gap offers the Wheelchair Loan Program making sport-specific chairs accessible to individuals who have not decided what sport they want to pursue. Individuals may borrow a sport chair for up to 12 months after which time it is expected they will have initiated the process of purchasing one of their own.
For events in your area or sport of interest call or email the Bridging The Gap coordinator, Laura Ferris, see contact information below.
Active Living Alliance – Moving to Inclusion – Designed for teachers of physical education classes and leaders of community based active living programs, this series of resources provides a practical approach to assisting with the inclusion of young people with different types of disabilities in physical activity programs.
For more information about Bridging the Gap, what presentations we offer or how to get involved,
Carina Von Bredow, Bridging the Gap Coordinator
Canadian Paralympic Committee, Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association, Tennis Canada and Wheelchair Basketball Canada.
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