Breaking barriers: There is no limit to what disabled people can do, says charity

Sense Cymru is giving vulnerable people the chance to try anything from paddle boarding to rock-climbing

A DISABILITY support group is providing a way for some of the most vulnerable people in Wales to take part in activities including rock-climbing and paddle boarding.

More than 80,000 people in Wales have a complex disability, which is when someone has two or more of the following disabilities:

  • Learning disability
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Autism

About £2 million worth of funding from Sport England has allowed Sense Cymru to set up adapted seated sports sessions across Wales.

It means that people who are confined to a wheelchair can still enjoy and play sports.

The Cardiffian visited one of these fortnightly sessions in Tremorfa, where a Disney-themed hour of activities had been set up.

Matt Davies from Rise, a charity dedicated to seated sports, ran the session, bouncing around the room to hits from The Lion King and Frozen.

He paused briefly to talk about the project: “We started out running these types of interactive sessions in care homes which worked well.

“We have 10 here today but up to 15 have been coming since October last year and it’s really rewarding to see how much of a difference it makes to them, .

“Everyone leaves with a smile on their face and there’s a great sense of camaraderie among the group.”

The group also leaves the community hall from time to time to take part in activities such as rock-climbing, paddle boarding, and tennis.

The sessions are very simple and interactive, according to Mr Davies. The focus is having fun and getting people involved.

Mr Davies soon brought out the rugby ball, and the group was split into teams with points awarded for knocking over a set of bowling pins.

Shannon has been a member of the Sense Cymru group in Tremorfa since the project began in October 2022

Although good fun for the vulnerable adults, the session also offers relief to support workers who are often providing constant care.

Sports and physical activity coordinator for Sense, Lauren Heath, said: “The sessions offer a break for everyone. They started off once a month and were so successful that we upped it to every two weeks.

“There was apprehension at first from some of the venues we spoke to, such as rock climbing venues who hadn’t worked with people with disabilities before, but we found a way. It’s all about breaking down barriers and building friendships.”

Outside of the class in Tremorfa, Sense Cymru provides support five days a week from its base in Caerphilly and is looking to expand.

“We’re actively working with more and more schools and have just opened our first care centre in England,” said Ms Heath.

She is also trying to gain funding from the Football Association of Wales.

Kieran O’Brien, support worker with Cardiff Council and caregiver for one of the adults, Juber, said: “These classes make a huge difference already. Juber really looks forward to them.

“We’ve done all sorts including bowling and cycling. He’s always in a good mood after we leave.”

The session lasted an hour and was full of laughs from everyone involved. Shannon and her team secured victory this week after bowling, rugby, and a musical quiz.

Shannon lifting this week’s trophy at Sense Cymru, Tremorfa, after displaying some impressive bowling skills
  • More information about the charity and timetables for events can be found here.