Improving accessibility

Creating a rewarding experience for all at your club

wide shot of small boats on lake

Clubs already welcome many members who are disabled, or have a long term health conditions,  because they have a great offer and are committed to getting the support people need right.

It is a great foundation to build on because almost 1 in 5 people in England have a long-standing limiting disability or illness, with 70% of those aged over 50, which means that living with impairments, health conditions or pain, or just getting older, is a day-to-day experience for a significant number of sailors and club members. 

This impacts likewise on your club’s potential membership against the background of an increasingly ageing demographic, and as growing numbers of people seek to reduce their working hours or retire, and look for new pastimes which enable them to continue being active.

The clubs who get it right find they bring in new members, attract volunteers, bring people back to the sport

As RYA Sailability Manager Joff McGill explains: “Many people will not use the term disabled to describe their own identity, and just want to be part of a local club learning something new or carrying on doing something they love. The clubs who get it right find they bring in new members, attract volunteers, bring people back to the sport - young and old - keep people sailing for longer and are at the heart of their local community. 

“We know some clubs feel Sailability is not for them because their facilities, expertise or equipment is not suitable, but that is not what the programme is about. Experience up and down the country shows improving access is about finding out about people’s needs and motivations, identifying the right membership experience for them, and having a commitment to removing any barriers to participation you do identify.  Not every disabled person needs a hoist or specialist equipment, so start with what you have got and build from there.”

The RYA has a wealth of resources for clubs and centres

You can assess your venue and plan from there to ensure your existing facilities and activities are as accessible as possible.

You can build the confidence of staff and volunteers with disability awareness, guides about autism and advice on getting to know the support people need.

There are schemes to help people learn, tool kits to promote sailing, plus guidance about specific safety practice issues and safety management systems

Support is available from RYA Sailability and our RYA Disability Development Officers

You can contact RYA Sailability on 02380 604 100 or by emailing, or via our network of RYA Disability Development Officers, who will be pleased to hear from you and will look forward to working with your club:

East | Jane Ellison | 07770 426191 | 

London and South East | Sarah Sibley | 07887 572246 |

Midlands | Brett Cokayne | 07823 559018 |

North East and North West | James Wheeldon | 07786 693388 |

South and South West | Leon Ward | 07917 193742 |

The RYA aims to inspire more people to lead active lives through boating

By supporting clubs to be welcoming and accessible for those who want to get on the water, the RYA aims to inspire more people to lead active lives through boating.

Joff adds: “We are here to help you have a great offer for the 1 in 5 of the population who may need some specific support to make sure they can be part of your club.

“All you really need is a willingness to support a lifetime passion for sailing in others, a commitment to removing barriers and getting people on the water and a welcoming attitude where sailing skills, friendship and a love of the sport are emphasised, not what people can’t do.”