The Access for All Abilities program run by Gippsport is allowing a man named James, who has a total vision impairment, to get out on the water in a kayak.
James, who lost his sight ten years ago due to diabetes, has plenty of help from qualified instructors and it’s done in the safety of the heated indoor pool at Aqua Energy Sale.
AAA offers Gippslanders with physical or intellectual disabilities a range of activities including AFL footy, soccer, netball, gymnastics and tennis. These sports are modified and are usually offered with the help of existing sporting clubs.
AAA is a Victorian Government initiative coordinated by Sport and Recreation Victoria and is the only such program of its type in Australia.
James says he feels quite safe paddling in the pool. “I don’t have to worry about hurting myself or not knowing what I’m doing,” he says.
“A lot of people help me learn how to do stuff.”
The Come & Try Kayaking sessions are an opportunity to practice in the lead-up to the next Sale To Sea Challenge in March 2015.
“Learning it in the pool at the moment, hopefully I’ll be able to get out into the real water and have a go at that,” says James.
“It’s a good chance to get out and meet new people and do something new in a safe area.”
People of all ages are having a go, like 11 year old Gus who is on the autism spectrum and attends the Sale Specialist School.
Gus’s father Jason says they came to the Wellington Shire for activities just like this.
“One of the reasons we moved down from Swan Hill to Maffra,” says Jason, “was the availability of all the extra activities, apart from just the basic school.”
“There’s so much here to involve kids with disabilities.
“He’s always loved water and he’s often sat in a kayak but he’s never been in a safe environment where he can have a go.
“Out of all the activities we’ve taken him to, this is the one he’s very keen to go to all the time.”
Jason says going to the pool and being involved with other people is helping Gus socially. Jason has noticed he’s becoming more outgoing.
“Socially he’s picked up a lot since coming down here.
“He does gymnastics as well, a program for kids with disabilities at Maffra.” The Maffra Gymnastics Club facilitates that program.
Brenton Dinsdale runs the AAA programs for Gippsport. There are more details HERE.