Disabled bowlers proved that disability is no deterrent from enjoying sport.
There is a belief amongst many that if you are disabled you must give up sports or you can only compete against other disabled sports people. Well, disabled bowlers from all over the Southeast showed that there was no stopping them from enjoying sports. They proved that disability is no deterrent at a friendly bowls match organised by MS Swale for Disability Bowls England.
Bowlers travelled from as far afield as Ipswich, Salisbury, Hastings, and Essex to form a team with local disabled bowlers. The bowlers had a wide variety of conditions including Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons, Stroke, Blindness, Deafness and none-verbal people, amputees, and spinal injuries. Everyone played as equals against a team of able-bodied players from the Swale Indoor Bowls Club, who had kindly volunteered their time for the match.
Swale Indoor Bowls Club has 6 playing rinks and at a normal triples bowls match there would be a maximum of 36 players on the green. With helpers aiding some of the disabled players there was up to 60 people, some of them in specialist wheelchairs, on the green at times. It was great to see everyone committed to the match and enjoying the stiff opposition. No concessions were given to or asked for by the disabled bowlers. Despite only 1 rink being won by the Disabled Team, everyone felt they were a winner after such an enjoyable afternoon. The day ended with a traditional “cricket tea” before they set off on their journeys home.
The event was hosted by MS Swale, a local independent MS Charity, who found that playing bowls has helped their members improve their strength, eye-hand co-ordination, physical and mental well-being. They formed a para-bowls club, raised the funds to purchase specialist lightweight wheelchairs and now run weekly sessions for people with MS, Parkinsons and other neurological illnesses. In fact, some members regularly play in matches with and against able bodied players, both locally and across Kent.
Disability is no impediment to playing the game of bowls. Players do not see their disability as a handicap but as an opportunity to meet new people, have some fun and enjoy a competitive game. The bonus is an improvement in their mental and physical well-being. Depending on the extent of their disability, players may walk, use a supporting walking stick, a Para-wheelchair, have a sighted guide or interpreter. Bowls is now included in international competitions such as the Para-Commonwealth Games and Para-Olympics.
Disability Bowls England (DBE) and MS Swale would like to encourage more disabled individuals to learn about bowls and the benefits it can bring to their physical and mental health. Too many disabled individuals believe that they can no longer play sport or don’t know how to find information, but bowls is a great equaliser. Bowls is one of a few sports where people of all ages, with or without disabilities, can play together and is one of the most accessible and integrated sports readily available.
If you are interested in joining a local bowls club, you should contact https://swaleindoorbowlsclub.co.uk. Swale Indoor Bowls Club is a thriving Indoor Bowls Centre in Sittingbourne with members from all walks of life. Several of their members are in the National England Bowls teams, representing their country at international level.
You can find out more about Disability Bowls England (DBE) here
You can find out more about MS Swale here