Disability sport seems to be the ‘trendy’ thing to discuss at the moment. After the Paralympics and an amazing 2016 Games in Rio, it’s tough not to want to put the biscuits down and go and jump in the pool with Ellie Simmonds, isn’t it?!
But, however tempting that gold medal and podium position may be, sports just aren’t for all of us, disabled or not. For those of us with disabilities, it can be tough to transfer out of our chairs in order to get involved and compete, and competing isn’t always something we want to do, especially as competing for employment, campaigning for access and showing our right to education is something we often have to do on what can feel like a daily basis. But fear not, you can get social, laugh loads and become a bit fitter without a diving board: behold, wheelchair ballroom dancing. A phrase that may make some fearful, and fill others with pure joy…
For a while, I’d been searching for something I could take part in with my non-disabled partner. Something active that would get us both laughing, but something I could also get fully involved in and embrace as a wheelchair user. It was a rainy autumn morning and the venue of this new activity was a good hour away from our house. We bundled into the car, probably argued about radio stations and directions most of the way before arriving at a small sports hall. Wheelchairs were flung out of car boots and we were greeted by several other couples about to join the fun. Some of us were romantically involved, others were friends or in a support worker capacity. We all had one thing in common: we’d come to get active in a different way in the middle of Manchester in the UK. Strictly Wheelchair Dancing is a wheelchair ballroom dance company run by the instructor, Ray. Those with disabilities and their friends, whether disabled or able-bodied, can attend on their own or in pairs and take up dancing as a hobby or in a competitive way. Waltz, foxtrot and a good ‘70s boogie are just some of the dances on offer, and you’ll certainly feel a bit of a workout after the two hour session – but you can do it all from the comfort of your own chair – result!!
After several sessions, we felt we were getting pretty good! Unfortunately, due to a house move, we were unable to attend anymore, but were told that if we wanted to take wheelchair dancing seriously, there are competition avenues out there – dancers even compete nationally and internationally – a chance for accessible travel, too!
Wheelchair ballroom dancing is not the only activity available to those of us with disabilities who don’t want to get too hot and sweaty. Read our wheelchair yoga blog, abd keep an eye out for wheelchair rambles in your area. This is one near my hometown in Yorkshire, run by the lovely Craig Grimes: http://www.experiencecommunity.co.uk/
If none of that seems to be for you, read our ebook on health and fitness with a disability, including exercises to take up and hints and tips to work towards a healthier, happier you. Swinging each other around in a sports hall isn’t for all of us, and neither is miming Michael Jackson on a Saturday morning, but for those of you who reckon you’d enjoy it and have a giggle along the way, Ray and his Strictly Wheelchair Dancing might just be for you.