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Why Disability Awareness Training matters to you 

Making your club or centre more inclusive

Did you know approximately one in every five people in the UK has a disability? That's one in five of your members and 20% of everyone that comes to your Open Day or does a course.

Disability doesn't exclusively mean wheelchair users or people with severe physical and cognitive needs, it can mean anything from someone who might have a slight visual or hearing impairment to someone who has has mild physical side effects from illness or uses a walking aid. 

It can mean learning difficulties, it can mean bad backs and ageing knees and hips, it can mean pretty much anything where someone finds something difficult. Many of these people would never describe themselves as disabled, but in terms of your club or centre, would the thing a person has trouble with stop them from going out on the water? 

Basic Disability Awareness Training for your instructors and volunteers could change that.

"Just hearing the word 'disability' still scares some clubs and centres," explains Brett Cokayne, RYA Disability Development Officer for the Midlands. "In many people's minds it instantly implies the need for expensive hoists, fleets of specially adapted boats and more volunteers.

"But that isn't the reality at all and it is my aim this year to help even more Midlands clubs become as inclusive as they can be without any significant investment at all."

What is Disability Awareness Training?

The apprehension clubs and centres can have around disability most typically comes from a lack of awareness. By alleviating apprehension and imparting knowledge, we can encourage more clubs and centres to become involved so instructors, volunteers and sailors alike enjoy their involvement to the full.

The RYA's one-day Disability Awareness Training course provides practical advice and understanding of what is involved in working alongside people with disability, with the emphasis very much on improving communications skills.

The aims of the course are three-fold...

  • Rationalise and alleviate fear of working with people with disabilities
  • Train students to facilitate activities for people with disabilities
  • Provide practical advice and knowledge of working alongside disabled people 

By the end of the day, those on the course should be more aware of the needs of disabled people (adults and children), have improved essential communication skills, know the current terminology used to explain disability and understand the challenges of disability in the sporting environment.


Brett continues: "An instructor positioning themselves in the right place for someone with a hearing impairment, knowing how you can use or adapt a Topper or a Pico, for example, for someone with a mild mobility problem, recognising how just painting a line along the edge of steps can make a massive difference to someone who doesn't have 20:20 vision, that's all disability awareness.

"There is so much clubs and centres can do but currently don't, not because they don't want to but because they don't know how or understand just how simple and important it can be. You want to keep more people using your facilities so removing even the lowest perceived barriers can play a huge part in that.

"It can also help your member retention as there are many people in clubs who aren't that worried about sailing themselves but who are interested by helping others. Just a bit of basic Disability Awareness Training and you could find yourself with a couple of willing new volunteers."

How do you run Disability Awareness Training? 

Brett is your man. Speak to him (you will find his contact details here - RYA Midlands contacts) and he will be able to tell you the best plan for your club or centre.

A number of Disability Awareness Training courses are held around the region during the year while there are no fewer than five authorised RYA Sailability Disability Awareness Training Centres in the Midlands - Carsington Sailability, Edgbaston Watersports, Northampton Sailability, Rudyard Sailability and Rutland Sailability.

If there is enough demand within your club or centre it may be possible for a recognised Sailability Disability Awareness Instructor to come and run a course at your facility.

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