About ParaSport Ontario
ParaSport Ontario (PO) provides introductory and first contact programming to provide persons with physical disabilities with the opportunity to learn about and try parasports. The programming is also used as an educational tool to raise awareness within the able-bodied population.
Our athletes and participants range in age from 7 years old to 84 years old. Disability categories include amputees and les autres; visually impaired or blind; spinal cord injuries; and cerebral palsy. Revenues raised from the Bingo Sessions run by ParaSport Ontario go towards the development and organization of competitive and developmental sports events; festivals; and regular introductory programming. Costs for hosting such events include: equipment costs (purchasing new adaptive equipment and repairs to existing equipment); storage rental fees for the equipment; facility fees and the maintenance and support of the PO website to disseminate information. With the critical mass in the City of Toronto, additional resources and programs are needed.
Our Outreach Program, which includes both summer and winter sports, is a first contact program which aims to get inactive and newly injured persons with a physical disability involved in parasports. Launched in 2004, the Outreach Program delivers introductory sport sessions to increase awareness of, and participation in, sport for the physically disabled. The Program, supported by Bingo revenue, is interactive in nature, as it brings all necessary adaptive, sport-specific equipment to sessions, allowing participants the opportunity to experience different parasports demonstrated by Athlete Ambassadors who, themselves, have a physical disability. In addition, the program increases awareness and knowledge within communities, developing support for new participants in sport. ParaSport Ontario takes this Progam to rehabilitation centres (i.e., Bloorview Kids Rehab and Lyndhurst Rehabilitation Centre), schools (all levels), camps, hospitals, armed forces locations, local businesses and community groups.
ParaSport Ontario has reached over 15,000 individuals within the City of Toronto since the inception of the Program. The Outreach Program includes Athlete Ambassadors speaking about their disability, their involvement in sport, and the benefits of being active, post injury. Following the speaking component, participants have an opportunity to try the adaptive equipment (purchased by ParaSport Ontario), participate in a skills and drills session and then play in a scrimmage. Sports are delivered on a regular basis, including: ParaAlpine, Boccia, Goalball, ParaNordic, Ice Sledge Hockey, Swimming, Track and Field, Wheelchair Curling, Wheelchair Basketball, Wheelchair Rugby, Wheelchair Tennis, Sitting Volleyball, Roller Sledge Hockey, Blind Soccer (Football 5-A-Side), and Hand Cycling.
Regular visits are made to Toronto elementary and high schools where the program is not only integrated into their physical education classes for a day but also presentations are made to educators who are invited to the schools for special sessions. Schools that have individuals with physical disabilities are targeted for this program. For the past eight years ParaSport Ontario has partnered with the Toronto District School Board to offer its Outreach Program at their Barrier Free Track and Field day for elementary school students with disabilities which is attended by over 300 students. From this event, some students have gone on to join a Toronto-based adapted sport program.
The University of Toronto regularly participates in this Program introducing it to kinesiology and physical education students and teachers to expose them to physical activity and recreational opportunities for students with a physical disability, and educate them on adapted physical activity. Businesses have expressed interest in our Outreach Program. Presentations, information booths & interactive sessions have been held at the request of the CIBC; KidSport; Variety Village; CPA Sport Fest-Toronto; Toronto 2015; City Chase; Healthy Active Living Conference; Camp Oochigeas, etc.
Through the Outreach Program, the able-bodied community is more aware of the fact that persons with a physical disability, using adaptive equipment, are able to participate in the same sports that they do. They also become familiar with other sports that are specially adapted (i.e., Goalball; Boccia). Listening to the personal stories of our Athlete Ambassadors, watching as they demonstrate various sports and by actually using the adaptive equipment that the Outreach Program provides, the able-bodied community develops respect for persons with a physical disability and gains a better understanding that, given the opportunity, everyone is able. ParaSport Ontario’s adaptive equipment loan program has proven to be very successful with schools, clubs, etc., that request the loan of adaptive equipment to use in their programs (i.e., one-day events; one-week events). The equipment is delivered and picked up by ParaSport Ontario.The benefits of our Programs are numerous:
- Individuals with a disability are made aware of opportunities to become physically active (which could reduce the need for medical treatment)
- Kinesiology and physical education students and teachers are exposed to physical activity and recreational opportunities for students with a physical disability and educate them on adapted physical activity
- Rehabilitation centres within Toronto have access to an excellent resource for their clients on a regular basis
- Training for youth in adapting programs for individuals with a disability (i.e., – camps). This, in turn, benefits the campers who can now be fully integrated into programs run by the City of Toronto.
- Employees in various businesses; people attending City events gain a better understanding and respect for persons with physical disabilities.
ParaSport Ontario also has a Games Program that is a catalyst for much needed positive awareness of disability issues in the GTA. The GTA has played an integral part in the development of these programs and initiatives for its residents. Games held in the City showcase the abilities of Toronto’s athletes with a disability. Toronto’s athletes, coaches and officials have a chance to participate in Enhanced Competitive Opportunities; and individual and team qualification events.
The Ontario ParaSport Winter Games include ParaAlpine; ParaNordic; Ice Sledge Hockey; Swimming; Wheelchair Basketball; Wheelchair Curling; and Wheelchair Rugby. The Ontario ParaSport Summer Games sports include Athletics; Boccia; Goalball; Wheelchair Tennis; Lawn Bowling; and ParaEquestrian. ParaSport Ontario publishes a newsletter and magazine which is an integral part of its Outreach Program. The magazine profiles athletes with a disability, coaches, and volunteers and disseminates valuable information to residents of the City of Toronto.All the events held in the City of Toronto involve community, volunteers, vendors, professionals, students, and local businesses and
- Increases opportunities for residents of Toronto to volunteer in the community
- Provides practical experience for Massage Therapy students from Toronto-based Massage Therapy Schools
- Provides local businesses in Toronto with business in the area of the event
- Provides opportunities for local Toronto Athletes to compete in their home town, most recently at the 2015 ParaPan American Games
- Increases awareness
- Showcases Toronto’s athletes with a physical disabilityParaSport Ontario’s also publishes a comprehensive Resource Directory listing numerous clubs and program opportunities available to Toronto residents.The benefits of ParaSport Ontario programs for persons with a physical disability in the City of Toronto are abundant.The revenues we receive from our Bingo sessions are vital to running these programs so that persons with a disability have programs and activities in their City of residence (Toronto) where they can continue to be, or start to be, active participants