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West Lothian-based swimming club launches disability programme and calls on more action to help disabled youngsters get into sport

West Lothian-based swimming club launches disability programme and calls on more action to help disabled youngsters get into sport

A West Lothian swimming club has launched a specialised disability programme – and hopes it will encourage other sports in the county and beyond to do the same.

Swim-IT head coach Fiona Donald says coinciding with the Paralympic Games is the ideal time to raise awareness of the need for more opportunities in sport for anyone with a disability and says she’s excited to launch the programme.

Speaking to the Courier, she commented: “There are numerous opportunities for young people to engage in sport, however when it comes to catering for disabilities the opportunities are very few.

“This is in part because of the lack of understanding and available training among sports clubs and coaches or teachers in how to engage with people with disabilities.

“We are very excited to be in a position to launch this programme for our community and have for a number of years been trying to promote swimming for everyone.

“We are an all inclusive swimming club which means that no one is turned away.

“We do, however, face a number of challenges for which we require support, understanding and opportunities. We would like to use this programme as a platform to show what is possible and to encourage other sports clubs to get involved and expand their programmes to support young people with disabilities.”

And she called on governing bodies to do more within disability sports through funding, training and education to help athletes get involved in sport.

She added: “We would like to see sports governing bodies take more of an interest in this area and realise the potential and need for further education, encouragement, training and support among clubs, coaches and teachers.

“We would like to see more grants and lottery funding being available to sports clubs to enable them to put the necessary equipment, education and facilities in place to accommodate everyone.

“There is a need to involve more people be it parents, teachers or coaches who have the knowledge and understanding to promote and encourage more programmes like this not only in our area but across Scotland.

West Lothian-based swimming club launches disability programme and calls on more action to help disabled youngsters get into sport

“With some amazing performances at the Paralympic Games it’s a fantastic time to raise awareness of disability sport and promote further opportunities for all ages and abilities.”

Neal Herbert, regional manager for East of Scotland, Scottish Disability Sport, heaped praise on Swim-IT and backed their call for more to be done within disability sport.

He said: “Swim-IT are really driving inclusive swimming opportunities for participants with disabilities across West Lothian.

“The development of the current programme has provided an excellent opportunity for individuals with disabilities, regardless of age or ability, to become involved with swimming as an activity.

“The development of the lesson programme, masters and club sessions will complement the inclusive nature of the club who already support a number of swimmers with disabilities.”

He added: “The club have worked hard to recruit coaches and volunteers with experience in disability swimming and this will significantly support the experience gained by all swimmers at the club, increasing the likelihood of sustained participation and improving health and wellbeing.

“Swim-IT are an excellent example of how clubs are looking to operate more inclusively and actively engage participants with disabilities.

“This is extremely important to help increase awareness of disability sport opportunities.”

Councillor Cathy Muldoon, Vice-chair of the culture and leisure policy development and scrutiny panel, added: “We are delighted to support the Swim-IT disability programme, which allows more children with complex support needs to benefit from small group sessions with highly qualified swim teachers and coaches.

“Our Community Sport team will continue to work to further embed equality, inclusion and diversity in the sporting system.”

Swim-IT would like to thank the following for their support in helping them start their disability programme: Arnold Clark, Club Sport West Lothian, Greg McDowall (Head teacher, West Calder High School), Lothian Disability Sport, Scottish Disability Sport, Sported, The Robertson Trust, and West Lothian Council.

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