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Keeping wheelchair users active during the lockdown

Copyrights: Hong Kong Rehabilitation Power

Keeping wheelchair users active during the lockdown

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust has been working to create an inclusive activity to keep wheelchair users active and social during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sports and recreational activities are crucial for the physical and mental health of all people. For people with disabilities, staying physically active is equally important, and has been linked strongly to various physical, psychological and social benefits.  However, a study revealed that in Hong Kong, 36 per cent of the adults with disabilities spent less than 20 minutes per week on physical activities or simply did not take part in any kind of sports. This is an alarming figure that the sector has to address. 

Respondents considered the lack of knowledgeable coaches who understand their needs and the relatively expensive sports course fees are their major barriers to enjoy sports. Many time, persons with disabilities are restricted by the design and inadequacy of sports facilities, equipment and sport activities available to them.

Being one of the world’s top ten charity donors, The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust firmly believes in the power of sports to transform lives. Our aim is to lower the entry barriers to participating in sports, promote active participation and sportsmanship, and make sports fun and accessible to all.

Sports has unique ability to transcend linguistic, cultural and social barriers, which makes it an ideal tool for fostering social inclusion and well-being, especially for people with disabilities.  In the past years, we have been supporting various organisations to run inclusive sports programmes, including providing multi-sports opportunities to the mentally or physically challenged, to training PE teachers at special schools, building modified and adapted sports to their students with special needs, and providing audio description services for the visually impaired to enjoy different sports games with their sighted peers.  

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of maintaining good physical and mental health has been very important for all. Recently, we have supported the design and development of a set of card games, aimed at motivating wheelchair users to perform different moves to stay active at home and keep socialising (albeit virtually) with their communities. Specially designed by physiotherapists, along with testing and feedback from wheelchair users of different abilities, the moves of the card games aim to train different muscle groups of the players, as well as act as a tool to initiate conversations with friends and relatives.

Innovation and empowerment are key success factors of this project, where the wheelchair users are important co-creator of the game. Apart from having fun at the design and testing workshops, the players become proud ambassadors of the game, spreading the importance of active living despite the social distancing.

Going forward, we will continue to systematically build an enabling and sustainable environment to promote disability sports, including supporting meaningful programmes, building capacity in the sport sector and investing in facilities that are age- and disability-friendly. We also hope to leverage the power of technology to connect people and make sports more accessible. Who knows, in the ‘new normal’ maybe we can all connect and compete in sport across borders at our homes, irrespective of our gender, race, age or abilities?

Debbie Yau works at the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, and aspires to make sports accessible to all. Find out more about the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust here

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Debbie Yau

Published

Sunday, November 22, 2020 - 19:16