Gliding with a Disability
Gliding is a form of flying that is well-suited to those with disabilities or who have limited mobility. Several gliding clubs are equipped with two-seat gliders that with a hand rudder control modification.
In 2019, Talan (pictured below) flew solo during a Battle Back gliding course at Wyvern GC. Talan notes;
‘Paralysed in 2003, I have spent the past sixteen years using a wheelchair to move about, Usually limited to slow speeds, only really accessing places with level or ramped access, life can be quite restricted for a paraplegic. There came an opportunity for me to attend a gliding course, where the limitation and restrictions would be removed, giving me the access to a whole new world…
..It is very difficult to put into words the feelings I experience when flying. I can say that it is an incredible sense of freedom, a sense I very rarely get in my life as a paraplegic. I am released from the restrictions of the wheelchair, I can forget about being disabled and due to the focus needed to fly I am distracted away from the neurogenic pain which plagues me.’
Where can I find gliders that are converted for a disability?
Clubs that have converted two-seater gliders to support disabled pilots include:
We aim to keep this list up to date but please check with individual clubs for full details and availability.
Is there an organisation that has expertise with helping disabled people to fly?
Walking on Air is a charity that supports those with a disability to try gliding and, if they choose, to learn to fly.
Glidability is a charity that wants to encourage, motivate and provide disabled people with the opportunity to learn to become glider pilots and so increase their horizons.
Aerobility is a charity set up specifically to help disabled pilots to fly aeroplanes. Along with a huge amount of other supportive information, a useful guide to the impact of specific medical conditions on the ability to fly can be found on the Aerobility web site.
Disabled military veterans may be able to access gliding supported by the Army Gliding Association via the Battleback programme.
A guide for gliding instructors on flying with those with a disability can be found here.
Several deaf people have become glider pilots. There is a web site specifically for deaf pilots and potential pilots which provides information and showcases achievements.
Guidance for club management
– information from Sport England’s ‘Club Matters’ website
Being an inclusive organisation is important. Explore the ‘Creating inclusive environments’ resource for additional guidance and have a listen to the Club Matters podcast on inclusivity. Also read about making reasonable adjustments.
Point of contact
Having a designated point of contact ensures that any questions and queries can be answered promptly and effectively. If you can’t identify a single person within your organisation then look to see how you can embed training for all coaches/ volunteers to be confident and competent with work with disabled people. Activity Alliance has a Delivering an excellent service for disabled customers training. It helps to ensure that disabled people have a positive first experience of your organisation, as first impressions count with any new participants or volunteers! Guidance can be found in Activity Alliance’s effective engagement factsheet on ‘Accessible and inclusive communications’.
Getting to the gliding site
Most organisations only provide the address to their location. Consider improving your information to include a range of directions and transport information. There are many apps or websites that can help you to offer directions including by public transport (including bus and train routes/stops and walking distances to your location), car, foot, or cycle. Having this information is really important for a disabled person when they are considering coming to your organisation, either as a participant or volunteer
Physical access is only one barrier that disabled people face. It’s great if you’ve already addressed this but the ‘Activity Alliance Access for All – Opening Doors’ resource will further support you by outlining simple steps to make the facilities you use more accessible to disabled people. Make sure you tell people about any potential access limitations during your initial contact with them; however, you should not assume a particular impairment group cannot access your venue. Provide the information and allow them to make their own choice.
A person centred approach
Disabled people are part of every demographic group in society, all of whom have different motivations and barriers when it comes to activity. A key step in being inclusive for all is to acknowledge and treat disabled people as individuals by trying to understand their different needs. You can explore Activity Alliance’s ‘Take a person-centred approach’ resource for ideas and advice on making positive changes to your approach to provide further opportunities for disabled people.
Actively promoting to disabled people
Active promotion to disabled people is often overlooked by many organisations. Whilst your organisation may already promote your offer to disabled people it may be helpful to explore Activity Alliance’s ‘Inclusive communication’ resources for more information.
Further guidance for improving your communication to make it more appealing for disabled people can be found in the ‘Talk to me’ research report from Activity Alliance. The Club Matters ‘Online Presence toolkit’ can also help.
Continuing to maintain accessible policies and procedures is a great way of keeping disabled volunteers encouraged, supported, and engaged. It may also help you to recruit further volunteers. You might like to take a look at the ‘Get Out Get Active Volunteer Management Toolkit’.
Supporting club volunteers
There are a host of resources available to support your organisation’s coaches and volunteers. Take a look at Activity Alliance’s research on ‘Delivering activity to disabled people’, and their communications factsheet on ‘positive language and terminology’ and share these amongst your team.
For more training to help your organisation to be as inclusive as they can be, you could visit your NGB or Active Partnership’s website to search for training courses, or explore the ‘Inclusive Activity Programme’ for a selection of training opportunities.
Involving disabled people
Promoting and providing opportunities for everyone to be part of your team is great practice. Ensuring that your organisation reflects the people from the communities you serve can really show how inclusive you are.
To continue supporting coaches or volunteers with a disability, consider developing buddy schemes or mentor programmes for both your existing and potential team.