BF’s Community Discussion series continued with a Disability Fencing Discussion Event. A big thank you to all those who attended and contributed. Read the summary to find out what was discussed.
Participation Director Virginia Bailey opened the discussion, welcoming everyone and introducing the workforce present, including two members of Scottish Fencing who are currently also doing a project in this area. She gave apologies from Welsh Fencing, who would have liked to be present but were at an event. We had 11 members in the discussion, and 5 members of staff and workforce. Virginia finished by introducing Rick Rodgers, our new Inclusion Officer (Disability).
Rick started by reminding everyone present that although BF are aware that disability fencing covers a much wider catchment group, the discussion’s focus was on supporting and growing wheelchair and seated fencing. This was due to the specific challenges faced by this part of the community, as well as the current successes of our Para Fencing team.
We shared a little of the current BF disability strategy, our “SEAS Methodology”: Showcase, Educate, Advocate, and Support. This involves showcasing disability throughout the sport and educating coaches and workforce to better support disabled athletes and those wanting to fence seated.
We aim to grow grassroots participation in wheelchair fencing to reflect the current makeup of society as a whole, meaning that we need to build from our current membership towards having between 100-200 members participating from a seated position. Within wider disability inclusion, we are looking to see a growth to between 15% and 20% of our population declaring some form of disability to reflect wider society.
Training and Coaching Development
We are shortly in the process of rolling out a CPD workshop on wheelchair fencing delivery through our coach developers. In the longer term, we are intending to update the current coaching qualifications to ensure that disability is considered throughout the coaching qualification training so that all new coaches feel confident supporting disabled participants.
We have a club survey going live within the next month for all clubs to fill out with their current position in terms of accessibility and disability inclusion. The aim of this survey is to gain a better mapped understanding of clubs who are delivering seated fencing and disability-inclusive opportunities. We can then help showcase these as areas of best practice and understand the needs of clubs not currently providing wheelchair fencing activities, but who may be interested or capable of doing so with a little further help. A brief discussion was had about this survey intention, the current delivery from clubs and coaches represented on the call and the challenge of understanding the landscape. The event was then opened up to questions from the members present.
The big focus from members was on the challenges around finding fencing wheelchairs and frames, and the costs of obtaining these items which are important to have when developing in the sport. It was agreed that early stages of seated fencing training was possible from any chair, but as the athlete develops skills and confidence a more solid frame and chair would be needed to help athletes feel confident to excel to their full range. Virginia and Rick shared that BF have purchased a number of frames for use at competitions and will be intending to loan these to clubs for regular use outside of competition times, however further solutions and more transportable options were still needed to support grassroots development.
For anyone wanting to know more about disability fencing more widely, or wheelchair and seated fencing specifically, can contact Rick via [email protected].
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