When any article professes to deal with partaking in a particular activity, sport or otherwise, with a disability it is wise to clarify that disability is a broad spectrum term covering a huge range of distinct conditions and disabilities, from physical to mental and a wide range of severity within each category, so everyone’s experience will be unique to them to a degree. However within the sport of bowls there are some universal truths that apply to participation with a disability, which this article will explore.
Disability Bowls England (DBE)
Disability Bowls England (DBE) is a body that provides great opportunities and coaching for players as well as helpers and volunteers. They have ‘Taster Days’ involving an introduction into disability bowls, coaching for players with disabilities at various levels from beginner to high level performers and the opportunity to try out a wide variety of disability bowling aids (more on this later). The DBE provides or arranges coaching for players of all ability as well as training for helpers looking to get involved.
English Bowls Coaching Society
There are instructors involved in the English Bowls Coaches Society who dedicate a vast amount of their time to helping those with disabilities to get involved with and get more out of their bowls experience. In addition there are, at many bowls clubs, bowlers without any coaching credentials who get involved and spend time with disabled bowlers doing some incredible work.
The game of bowls – suited to those with disabilities
The nature of the game of bowls is such that it demands a pretty minimal physical input. This makes it particularly well suited to people with a broad range of disabilities. There are specially adapted wheelchairs that leave minimal or no mark on the playing surface and enable those in wheelchairs to get involved. Such a chair is known as the Bradshaw Buggy and can be tailor-made and adapted for the unique needs of the bowler. There are many bowls clubs in the UK that have access to such a chair. You can also invest in your own – the Bowls Royce chair is particularly recommended. Bowls is also accessible to the blind and partially sighted thanks to an ingenious adaptation in which a string is placed along the central line of the rink itself. The bowler is able to get their bearings by touching the string and then decide on the nature of their shot. With the aid of a coach at the head who can feed back information using the clock method the bowler can decide on a correct line and by relaying the distance the bowl has fallen short or gone long they can get a clear picture of the game. Those with mental health challenges like Down’s Syndrome can get a lot out of bowls and it can have a very beneficial impact on their happiness and behaviour patterns.
Key Disability aids for bowls
Walking stick protector – A vital and simple addition to the walking stick to prevent imprinting on the bowling surface.
Bowling arm – Approved by Bowls England this ingenious piece of kit is designed to assist a bowler who would otherwise be unable to deliver a bowl.
Telescopic bowls and jack lifter – Forged from lightweight aluminium this lifter can be stored in a bag and functions to take the repetitive strain out of bowls by letting you pick up your bowls before delivery and align the jack. without bending down.