Disability Fencing Top Tips
- ‘Wheelchair fencing’ refers to the way the sport is played, not how the fencer gets about usually. Many disabled fencers will not need or want to fence from a wheelchair, and some people who don’t use a wheelchair for their day-to-day mobility will prefer to, or need to, fence from one.
- Don’t make assumptions about what a disabled fencer will be able to do, or what they might not be able to do. Open communication is key.
- When working with a participant to find their capabilities. Show them without a weapon (by arm and hand movement) some of the basic movements they will need to make, and see if they can repeat the movement, or how close to the movement they can get. Work with what they have got, they may be able to develop more movement and precision over time.
- All people are different, so even though you may have two individuals with the same or similar impairment, how they are affected by the condition may be very different.
- The 5 magic words to support a disabled person are “Do you want any assistance?”
- With visually impaired (VI) fencers, find out from them what they need. It might be they just need leading to the piste, and back to their fencing bag afterwards. Some VI fencers may need a raised strip that goes the full length of the 14-metre piste.
- Many people have disabilities that are “hidden” (not obvious when first meeting them) treat everyone with kindness and be prepared to adapt for them if required without needing to know if they have a defined disability or not. Fencing as a sport is attractive to people who are neurodiverse, with Autism or ADHD etc, so clear communication and checking understanding from your participants is key.
- Treat disabled people as you would like to be treated if you were in their position, and you won’t go wrong.
- Plan adaptations. If you know a participant will need to adapt for some part of the session, work out in advance how you could suggest they adapt. Sometimes better options come out in play, but if you have some ideas before you start it’ll avoid extra time being taken up during sessions.
- If you would like some support in your club, with disabled participants, or are a disabled fencer yourself, please get in touch with British Fencing. You can reach Rick, the Inclusion Officer (Disability), via the contact us form.
Our page on Accessible Venues has more information about how to make the training environment more disability inclusive.