A pilot programme in Reading has given people with a learning disability to take part in canoeing session.
British Canoeing aims to aims to increase the number of people with a disability taking part in canoeing by 8% over the next 4 years and the pilot session at Wokingham Waterside Centre saw 7 people with a learning disability and three volunteers take to the waters.
"This was a wonderful new experience for our members who were all very excited to be going canoeing on the river, especially as the river plays a major part in Reading life," said Margaret Harper from Reading Mencap, whose members took part in the session.
All the participants received an hour of quality coaching and time on the water in katakanus – adapted canoe boats, which are designed to be fully stable – provided by Mencap and Special Olympics Great Britain in partnership with British Canoeing and its Paddle-Ability scheme.
Coaches from Wokingham Waterside Centre delivered the session and they will continue to run the remaining 11 sessions of the pilot throughout June and July.
Sue Hornby, director of development for British Canoeing, said: "British canoeing is delighted to be working in partnership with Mencap and Special Olympics GB to increase the number of people with a learning disability that are able to experience and enjoy canoeing. We are delighted that this first pilot at Wokingham has been met with such enthusiasm and are confident this will be a very successful project."
British Canoeing has a network of clubs throughout the UK, including Wokingham Waterside that have been recognised as having high quality coaching and provision for disabled people.
Ian Carpenter, national sport manager at Mencap, added: “It’s really exciting that British Canoeing are championing people with a learning disability throughout their development work; their coaches will be attending learning disability coaching workshops, their clubs are becoming much more inclusive through the Paddle-Ability accreditation process, and they are looking to create more opportunities for competition. This pilot project and future development work is a very important opportunity to get more people with a learning disability on the water.”
Mencap and Special Olympics GB have worked together to deliver many inclusive sport initiatives to increase participation for people with disabilities across the UK, such as this one.
Andy Heffer, director of sports and development for Special Olympics GB, concluded: "Sport can have a transformative effect on the lives of people with a learning disability, giving them opportunities for enjoyment and achievement, and participating in a sport like canoeing also brings significant health benefits. We hope that this is just the start of many such sessions across the country."