Disability Fencing 101

Many people participate in fencing with disabilities and there is also the option to participate in Wheelchair Fencing at clubs and also at competitions, right up to the Paralympics.

British Fencing (BF) is focused on ensuring all fencers no matter their background, impairment, or disability are treated equitably and fairly when participating in all levels in fencing.

What is disability?

“You’re disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.”
The UK Government

There are two schools of thought or ‘models’ of disability, the social model and medical model. The social model of disability says that it is the barriers in society, such as inaccessible buildings or people’s attitudes, that create disability. Disabled people have choice, control and independence in society when these barriers are removed. Information is widely available online but organisations like Scope (www.scope.org.uk) have more on this topic.

Disability in the community

  • Disabled people account for around 20% of the population of the UK and 15% of global population (#WeThe15 campaign)
  • Around 2% of the population are full time wheelchair users
  • Disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled counterparts (Activity Alliance survey data)

Disability isn’t just about sitting down in a wheelchair, many disabled people participate in sport and physical activity without needing adapted equipment or training. Some people may need adjustments in the way they learn or communicate but not in the built environment. Even if you can’t see it immediately, because the disability is “hidden”, it is likely that disabled participants are already training at your clubs, our recent Equality survey results showed that 12% of members considered themselves as disabled.

One of the biggest barriers to disabled people participating is the misconceptions and presumptions on what is and isn’t possible for a disabled participant, including in sport. Fear or worries about the imagined risk, of saying or doing the wrong thing get in the way of being welcoming of disabled participants, and the depictions in the media, or lack of images of disabled people don’t help this at all.

Let’s change perceptions, and build a more equitable sport.

Some terms you may hear

Para Fencing – we use this term to refer to disabled fencers on the Paralympic pathway and those in the World Class Programme, including those participating in IWAS and Paralympic events.

Wheelchair Fencing/Fencer or Sitting Fencing/Sitting Fencer – This refers to the wider community of fencers who sit in a chair or wheelchair to fence, at the club and national level, but who may not be classified or classifiable as a Paralympic athlete.

Disability inclusive fencing/Disabled fencer – describes all fencers who have a disability or impairment, and all fencing opportunities specifically for those with disabilities.

Standing fencing/fencer or FIE rules fencing– this is the term used to reference the FIE style of fencing which is performed standing and is currently in the Olympic games. It’s best not to use the term non-disabled fencing to reference FIE-based standing fencing as there are likely many athletes who consider themselves disabled but still take part in this style.

What can I do?

Want to make sure your club is accessible? Find out more: Making a venue accessible and inclusive

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Accessible Venues
  • Is your club accessible?
  • How to make disabled people feel welcome
  • Download our Access Matrix
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Wheelchair Fencing Clubs
  • Clubs that are accessible
  • Clubs with wheelchair fencing equipment
  • Tell us about clubs not yet on our list
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Disability Fencing Top Tips
  • Welcoming disabled people
  • Finding resources
  • Communication suggestions
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Fencing 4 Change
  • Our Partnership with the Change Foundation
  • How to contact Fencing 4 Change
  • Next steps with the scheme

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