Make no mistake about it… adapted wheelchair sports programmes in the UK are on the rise. With over seven million people in the UK having some form of mobility impairment, the Disability Discrimination Act specifically requires that sport construction does not in any way impede a person with a disability from enjoying their training. Yorkshire-based manufacturer of synthetic surfaces Playrite know that the need to specify the right products for sporting facilities is seen as crucial if a whole swathe of the disabled community is to be fully included in UK sport.
Today the Paralympics are the second biggest sporting event in the world. At the 2012 London games, 4,200 disabled athletes participated in 20 sports in a stunning range of fully accessible, ‘universal design’ venues.
The games are no longer about the rehabilitation of paralysed people: they are a great international sporting event in their own right. Other famous sporting venues have opened up to disability sports including Wimbledon, where wheelchair tennis is now played. According to Sport England “good facilities are fundamental to developing sporting opportunities for everyone” and since the London Olympics and Paralympics 2012 this has become more evident with the increase of participation in all sports at all levels.
The accelerated commodification of the Paralympic Games has seen it move from pastime to global sporting spectacle marking it as a hyper-visible space of disability representation. Indeed, the Rio 2016 Paralympics saw its largest global media audience of 4.1 billion, an increase of over 127% since 2004 which has had a positive knock-on effect in the UK for a host of wheelchair sports and increased sporting participation.
There is though, a ‘however.’ A lack of opportunities and accessible venues have been identified as the top two barriers to participation in sport and physical activity for wheelchair users and recent research has revealed high levels of demand among wheelchair users for a range of sports. Playrite has correctly identified that providing more artificial surfaces as opposed to grass or tarmac will close the gap in levelling up access to facilities that normally only able-bodied users would benefit from.
Approximately 54% of disabled people travel more than 30 minutes to take part in some form of sport or physical activity so there is a clear need for more opportunities to take place at a local level.
Sport and physical activity are vital for disabled people as part of a healthy active life and whilst there is more to do, participation by wheelchair users in gym and fitness, wheelchair basketball is identified as the most popular current activities. Disabled people are motivated to take part in sport and physical activity to increase fitness, to socialise with others, for fun and enjoyment and research shows that 74% of wheelchair users would like to be more active in the future.
At Playrite they provide a high quality of sport surfacing products for everyone, from grassroots community sport centres up to elite sporting facilities. In particular they are keen to ensure their products are suitable for all users, in particular those who use wheelchairs in grass-based sports.
Playrite’s Matchplay 2 synthetic grass surface is their most popular sports surface in multi-use games areas as it ticks a raft of boxes for so many different sports. Available in a range of colours, Matchplay 2 maximises playing time due to its low sand content which allows for all weather usage. Matchplay 2 is the only synthetic grass type surface that meets Netball standards and has been recognised by Sport England for that reason.
To ensure their products will serve the next generation of sporting greats, they submitted their Matchplay 2 surface for testing to determine the coefficient of friction when the surface is in use by wheelchairs.
Surfaces require coefficient of friction between 0.75 μ – 1.0 μ to be deemed suitable for wheelchair sports tests conducted by Labosport determined that Matchplay 2 had a rating of 0.96μ which deems it safe for wheelchair users and suitable for a number of sports including: Tennis, Hockey, Football, Netball and Basketball. It presents a strong argument for Playrites’ Matchplay 2 over natural grass or tarmac.
Playrite knows that making it easier for wheelchair users to find the right activity, remain in it and achieve their potential is essential. It’s a sentiment that’s helping to support, strengthen and grow the wheelchair sport infrastructure.
Chris Pickles, Sales Director, Playrite Ltd, commented, “In recent months we have had a large increase in demand from the wheelchair sporting sector for our Matchplay 2 synthetic grass surface. It seemed more than prudent to have our Matchplay 2 product tested by a recognised body. It’s crucial that sports surfaces meet the required friction ratings for wheelchair users. The Labosport report quite clearly shows that Matchplay 2 is more than fit for purpose in this sector.”
Sport and physical activity can be truly transformational in the lives of disabled children and adults. Whether it is a child born with a disability or someone paralysed through a road traffic accident, sport has the power to inspire them to lead healthy, active lives and through sport achieve greater confidence, self-esteem, and enjoyment.
The physical benefits of sport are well known but the improvements in wellbeing and mental health of people with physical impairments through physical activity are just as important and can often be the catalyst to reducing isolation and increasing social inclusion for disabled people.
Increased numbers of wheelchair users are playing sports every day, some even on a professional level.
There are many types of wheelchair sports, among them are racing, basketball, tennis, table tennis, badminton, bowling, hockey, football, and baseball.
In a world where Playrite are committed to ‘levelling’ up sport for disabled participants, the provision of their artificial surfaces is playing a key role in providing access to a host of sports and activities that are creating a positive outcome on the mental health and well-being of the users. It’s a win-win situation where more facilities and playing surfaces become available and where the wider-wheelchair sporting sector benefits.
Playrite have been manufacturing sport and play surfaces in Yorkshire since 1991 with the parent company dating back even further. Playrite supplies products throughout the UK and exports their surfaces for installation on a Worldwide basis. Playrite offers a wide range of surfaces for sports, playgrounds, multi-use sports areas and artificial grass for gardens.
To learn more about Playrite, click here.