Students with disability given a sporting chance

To mark International Day of People with Disability, Glenn Cullen looks at how multi-sport days for students with a disability are fostering inclusion.

Image: Action packed: Channel 10 get in on the action at the multi-sport day

It’s officially called Hills Basketball Stadium but when the Department’s Inclusive School Sport Unit took over the Castle Hill facility this week for one of its multi-sport days for students with a disability, hoops just had to join the queue.

Aside from basketball there’s table tennis, frame football, rugby league, Aussie Rules, Little Athletics and half a dozen other activities on offer at the centre.

The day at Castle Hill sees 187 students from 12 public schools in the area participate in a smorgasbord of sport; one of 30-plus similar events the School Sports Unit runs annually across the state.

Two days out from the International Day of People with Disability, this one perhaps has a little more resonance.

“Saturday is all about promoting people with disability; I see our days as a way of doing that as well,” Disability Inclusion Officer Anthony Moyes said.

“It ties in nicely with things like the Paralympics which are more part of the mainstream media these days. It’s just great to be part of that whole package building people’s awareness around students with disability in our schools.”

With around one in five students at public schools having some form of disability - from minor intellectual impairment all the way through to physical, vision and hearing impairments – it’s a key plank in what the unit does to keep kids active.

“It’s a great opportunity to get lots of students with disability participating in a range of different sports - some of which they wouldn’t have played before,” Mr Moyes said.

And while the emphasis is on inclusion and participation, there’s scope for the ambitious students to go further still.

Several inclusive sports are played externally to school offering representative pathways: Former Heathcote High School student Daniel Michel is one example – going on to win a bronze medal in boccia at the 2020 Paralympics.

For Mr Moyes though, it’s all about the “enjoyment and smiles” and that extend from the students, to parents and teachers.

“We certainly see the teachers enjoying it as well – getting ideas about how they can take some of the sport’s modifications they have seen throughout the day back to their schools,” he said.

“Often, we’ll hear teachers saying they were surprised that a particular student got involved, and just how much the student loved the activity.

“The flow-on from that is that hopefully there is more sport and physical activity happening back at schools on a regular basis.”

The multi-sport days continue with Blacktown hosting students today before the unit moves on to Newcastle and Maitland next week ahead of the year’s final event at North Sydney next Friday.

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