Finding the ability in disability

“When we’re free to move, anything is possible”

Lauren Woolstencroft, Canadian alpine skier, eight time Paralympic gold medallist (Webborn & Blauwet, 2019)

Here at Community NeuroRehab Service, our goal is to get you moving, no matter your ability.

The inclusion of people with disability in sport on the world stage is relatively recent. In 1944, Dr Ludwig Guttmann encouraged patients in the spinal cord injury unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England to compete in sports to “instil self-respect, self-discipline, a competitive spirit and comradeship”. He believed that “sport develops mental attitudes that are essential for social reintegration”

His athletes with spinal cord injury went on to compete in an archery contest on the opening day of the 1948 Olympics, and four years later the International Stoke Mandeville games were commenced (Webborn & Blauwet, 2019).

By 1980, athletes with limb deficiencies, vision impairment, and athletes with cerebral palsy gained access to competition at an international level, paving the way for athletes with a diverse range of impairments to be included. By the 2020 Paralympics, there were over 20 sports in the paralympics, and separate competitions for people with a hearing or intellectual impairment (Webborn & Blauwet, 2019).

Despite the increasing prevalence and popularity of the Paralympics; participating in sport, or any physical activity, remains a challenge for individuals with a physical or intellectual disability. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations for physical activity for health are the same, irrespective of disability:

“At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week [e.g. wheeling oneself in a wheelchair] or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity [e.g. jogging, wheelchair basketball] [or a combination]. In addition, muscle-strengthening activities [e.g. weight training, adapted yoga] should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week”

 (World Health Organization (WHO), 2010)

Luckily, we are here to help. Our physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, and occupational therapists are well-placed to overcome common and seemingly insurmountable barriers to sport and physical activity participation. We can help with:

  • Assessing the physiological demands, coordination requirements, and injury risk of a chosen activity
  • Understanding your medical conditions and ability to participate in a sport or activity
  • Assessing, prescribing, and applying for funding for specialised adaptive equipment
  • Prescribing exercises and activities to get your body prepared for the sport or activity
  • Contacting coaching staff, support staff, and facilities staff to ‘make it happen’ for you
  • Knowing or researching the risks of each sport to help minimise and prevent illness and injuries
  • And most importantly, finding a sport or activity that suits your personal preference – only limited by your imagination! (Webborn & Blauwet, 2019)

So, if you are dreaming of the freedom of a wheelchair marathon, the physicality of wheelchair rugby, the team bonding of football, the grit of completing a triathlon, or the raw power of powerlifting, we would love to work with you to turn those dreams into goals, and goals into achievements!

Until next time,

Caitlin Hill

CNRS Neurological Physiotherapist


  • Chattasa, A. (2018). Unsplash.
  • Webborn, N., & Blauwet, C. (2019). The person with disability. In P. Brukner, & K. Khan, Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine. McGraw-Hill Education (Australia) Pty Ltd.
  • World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. Geneva.

Caitlin Hill

CNRS Neurological Physiotherapist