A photo of a young girl with down syndrome smiling at the camera. She is standing on an athletics track.

Sport and participation in physical activity are ingrained into Australian culture. Every Australian, regardless of gender, background or ability, should be able to participate in sport if they wish.

Not only should people be able to participate, but we should always aim to achieve this in a warm, welcoming, and overall inclusive manner free from discrimination or harassment of any kind.

Inclusivity is vital to ensuring that people with disability can access sport and physical activities in the exact same manner that other participants do. Inclusive sport framework is essential in this journey and one that should be strongly encouraged by all sporting organisations. Promoting inclusive sport means ensuring that various types of sports are accessible to all, not just modified. Not only does this allow for an increased sense of independence, but can assist children in learning skills, making friends, and engaging in activities they never deemed possible.

How should your local sporting clubs be acknowledging or promoting inclusivity in sport? Before you sign up for sporting clubs which offer such services its important that you have a conversation with them directly to ensure inclusive rather than modified sports are the most appropriate path. The club should adopt an inclusive philosophy and have that information available and on hand. This includes acknowledging that people with a disability are willing and able to be included in sport and physical activity, everyone varies in ability and skill levels, people with a disability are individuals, and clubs should group players according to their skill levels rather than segregating disabled and non-disabled participants. Assumptions should not be made, and questions should always be asked, and finally, a mindful and respectful nature surrounding venue and facilities should be used- accessibility should be paramount regardless of the number of athletes with a disability registered at the club.

Sport Australia has created a five step process to help sports develop their own Inclusive Sport Frameworks and get more people involved in sport. Also see the 7 Pillars of Inclusion which can help sporting organisations to more inclusive and diverse.

Would you rather participate in a modified version of your favourite sport? Embracing modified sport can bring people from similar paths together in a fun, casual and supportive environment. Not only do these modified sports allow for increased participation, but they can lead you down the path of representative sport if you find a real passion and drive for your chosen sport! Common modified sports include cycling via modified bikes, adaptive golf, equine-assisted therapy, sitting volleyball, adaptive swimming and wheelchair-based tennis or basketball. If you are a little overwhelmed for choice, or not quite sure what sport would best suit you, try contacting a physical therapist who can assist you in determining possible equipment modifications and advise you on the right activity for you.

So, you have decided that the sporting life is the life for you, but you are not sure if this is covered in your NDIS plan? That is a fair enough question; a plan can be confusing at the best of times. Due to the range of benefits that come from inclusion in sport (such as stress reduction and increased social interaction) the NDIS can provide funding to assist you in sports involvement by either funding the activities or the equipment. You should always double-check what support categories are in your plan, assess all providers of sporting activities for the right fit for you and seek advice from plan managers or support coordinators if unsure. You can never ask too many questions!

Not on an NDIS plan but want to be aware of the subsidies some governments provide? No worries- there are several different programs accessible to PWD children to assist them in sport participation in their local community. Follow the below links for a state-by-state overview of these available subsidies. Please note there are currently no subsidies for Victoria, ACT and Tasmania; however, local sporting grants may be available in your area.

If your child does not wish to participate in any sports, inclusive or disability-specific, it is important not to push them. Instead, spend your time trialling different avenues or activities, the sporting life is not for everyone; however, there should be an increased focus on the mental and social benefits! It is not all about who can be the very best or win the most blue ribbons, sometimes it is all about the friends you meet and the memories you make.  

How IDEAS can help
Want help to find a sport or physical activity in your area? Or are you keen to make your sporting club more inclusive?
Our Information Officers can help - call us and find out what is possible. Free Call: 1800 029 904


IDEAS does information so you can do life.