About Disabilities

While facilitators don't need to be experts about disabilites they should understand a few principles. To start with, not all disabilities are alike. In fact, how a specific disability impacts one child may be very different for how it impacts another with the same disability. This point emphasizes the fact that the best way to learn about a disability is to learn about that child first. To provide a facilitator with very basic information about disabilities we offer the following synopses and strategies to consider when developing customized programming.


May Include...

  • Reduced stability


  • Use straps to help secure the participant in their chair

Cerebral Palsy

May Include....

  • Lack of coordination
  • Spasticity
  • Muscle tightness or spasm
  • Involuntary movement
  • Difficulty with fine & gross motor skills
  • Abnormal perception & sensation


  • Use proper strapping/ cushioning to meet the child’s individual needs
  • Larger/softer balls are easier to catch
  • Lighter/softer balls travel slower making them easier to catch
  • Call the child’s name before passing them the ball to provide additional time to catch the ball

Hearing Impairments

(May refer to complete or partial hearing loss.)

May include...

  • Difficulty interpreting loudness of sounds
  • Difficulty hearing with loud background noise
  • Difficulty putting sounds together
  • Difficulty localizing source of sound


  • Have the individual with the hearing impairment sit close to the instructor
  • Make sure the participant has a clear view of activities being demonstrated.
  • If one ear is better than the other, ensure the better ear is directed to group and instructor.
  • Avoid areas which will have a great deal of background noise

Spina Bifida

May include....

  • Muscle weakness or paralysis & loss of sensation below the area of the spine where the incomplete closure occurs


  • Use proper strapping/ cushioning to meet the child’s individual needs

Spinal Cord Injury

(Characteristics of a SCI will vary depending on the level the injury was sustained... An injury to the spinal cord can result in partial or total paralysis of two or four extremities)


  • Paralysis of the lower extremities and part or all of the trunk muscles.
  • Loss of sensation in paralyzed limbs muscle spasms
  • Quadriplegia - impairment to the hands and arms in addition to the effects of paraplegia
  • Hemiplegia (the paralysis of one side of the body as a result of a stroke or traumatic brain injury) which may be an impairment of intellect, personality, speech or senses


  • Use proper strapping/ cushioning to meet the child’s individual needs
  • Seating position can dramatically impact balance and wheeling abilities, minor adjustments to the sport chair seat and backrest angles can improve both.

Vision Impairments

Characteristics will vary depending on the type of visual impairment

May include...

  • Difficulty judging depth & motion
  • Difficulty tracking ( following a moving object)
  • Difficulty seeing objects i.e.- ball, net, teammates, boundaries


  • Ensure good lighting
  • Speak clearly but naturally; exaggeration or shouting can make it more difficult for the child to understand speech.
  • Try to remain in one area while talking. It’s difficult to lip read someone moving about a lot.
  • Don’t talk while your back is turned to the child


ALACD Helping Canadians with Disability/Chronic Disease Get Physically Active: Tip Sheets

The following are various tip sheets developed by the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with Disabilities (ALACD) for intermediaries working with Canadians with various disabilities and are available at www.lin.ca

Additional Links

Stats Can 2001 report on disabilities and educational services
2006 Stats Can figures - PDF