Providing Opportunities for People with Disabilities to Participate in by alicejenny


Providing Opportunities for People with
Disabilities to Participate in Rowing

       Adaptive Rowing
                                            PREPARED BY THE

   National Committee on Adaptive Rowing

  This Manual was compiled by Michael Maher and edited by Justin Fryer. The following people provided
                                    valuable assistance and input:

                                               Catherine Barney
                                                 Rob Millikin
                                               Courtney Pollock
                                                Allison Sheard
                                                Carolyn Taylor
                                                Carolyn Trono
                                               Pam VanEgmond
                                             Roberta White-Melville
                                                  Jillian Yates

This Manual is a work in-progress. Comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome. Please direct input to
Michael Maher at

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Table of Contents
    Acknowledgements                                 i

    Table of Contents                                ii

    CHAPTER        1

    INTRODUCTION                                     1-1   TO   1-10

    CHAPTER        2

    ROWING       TECHNIQUE      AND   TERMINOLOGY    2-1   TO   2-19

    CHAPTER        3

    GETTING       STARTED                            3-1   TO   3-8

    CHAPTER        4

    COACHING            STRATEGIES                   4-1   TO   4-7

    CHAPTER        5

    SAFETY                                           5-1   TO   5-8

    CHAPTER        6

    SPECIAL       NEEDS                                     N/A

    CHAPTER        7

    COMPETITIVE           ROWING                            N/A

    CHAPTER        8

    EQUIPMENT                                               N/A

    CHAPTER        9

    RESOURCES                                               N/A

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             1.1 What is Adaptive Rowing?

                        daptive rowing is rowing or sculling for people with physical or intellectual
                        disabilities or limitations including but not limited to, paraplegia, quadriplegia,
                        Down Syndrome, blindness, visual impairment, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy
                        and spina bifida. For recreational rowing, people with a wide range of
             disabilities can be accommodated within the same crew, allowing for integration among
             disabilities and ultimately, integration into regular programs within a club. Competitive
             rowing is also available for people with disabilities and a number of major regattas,
             including the FISA World Rowing Championships, now include adaptive rowing events.
             For competitive rowing, adaptive athletes are classified based on the extent of their
             disability and how it influences their rowing stroke.

             1.2 Purpose of Manual

                   t is only since about 1990 that rowing in Canada has moved from being regarded as
                  predominantly a competitive sport to one that welcomes people of all ages and
                  athletic abilities. The largest growth sector of the sport is now adult recreational in
                  the form of learn to row programs, corporate leagues and touring. Individuals with
             disabilities have participated in rowing on a very limited basis over the years, but it was
             not until the late 1990’s that the first organized rowing programs focusing on people with
             disabilities were started in rowing clubs in Ontario and British Columbia. By that time,
             adaptive rowing programs were well established in other western countries including the
             United States, Australia, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany. In 2001 Rowing
             Canada Aviron established an adaptive rowing committee to help promote and encourage
             more access to the sport by people with disabilities. One of the goals of this committee
             was to prepare a manual that would be a resource for rowing clubs wishing to initiate or
             develop an adaptive rowing program of their own. Thus, this manual is intended to break
             down some of the barriers that inhibit clubs and coaches from taking the first step to
             providing a welcoming environment for people with disabilities and making the motto,
             Rowing for All ,a reality.

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      Participation Barriers

       Of note, able-bodied sport clubs are NOT taking a proactive approach to
       Paralympic sport in the areas of community awareness, participant
       recruitment and athlete talent identification and acquisition of basic
       sport skills. At this level it is safe to say there is no “integration
       strategy” at work. (Roadmap to 2010 Paralympic Success, July 2003)

    1.3 Why Rowing?

            hen faced with the reality of a disability, many individuals experience
            depression, a loss of confidence and a belief that their lives are limited.
            Sports and recreation offer the opportunity to develop new skills in a very
            short time. Such success helps build self-confidence and a positive attitude
that focuses on possibilities instead of dwelling on what can no longer be done.

The sport of rowing provides opportunities for disabled participants to experience a non-
contact, low-impact, team environment. As for any new rower, the sport is a great way to
increase overall fitness level.

Some of the reasons that rowing is such a great recreational activity for people with
disabilities are:

        It is performed in a sitting position.

        You don’t have to use your legs.

        You can row at a slow rate.

        You do not need to be able to see to row. Sighted rowers sometimes train
        with their eyes closed.

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        Rowers in a coxed boat don’t need to be able to see where they are going.

        You can row for short periods and take a rest.

        Rowing is safe with minimal potential for injury.

        Rowing has wonderful therapeutic benefits.

        Rowing is accessible. There are rowing clubs all across Canada.

        Rowing provides opportunities to cox where minimal body movement is

        Rowing does not require a lot of verbal communication.

        Rowing is repetitious and so can be mastered by people with intellectual

      “I am a recreational pleasure rower…….

       “To me it is the incredibly beautiful sensation of gliding over the water, it is the rhythm of
       sliding into the catch, the pleasant tiredness when I finally tie up at the dock – it is the air,
       the birds, the other boats going by, the camaraderie of other rowers, it being close to other
       rowers whose names I hardly know and whom I never see outside of the rowing venue; it is
       washing and polishing my boat and endlessly trying to change my rigging in the hope of
       improving my rowing.”

       George Szasz, 73+ year old recreational rower and retired physician in B.C.

    1.4 A Way with Words


     t is well recognized that the use of inappropriate terminology or words with a
     negative connotation, even when used inadvertently by well-meaning people, can be
     hurtful and insensitive to other people. When we wish to create a positive and open
     communications environment we must always choose our words carefully. Words
and expressions, which may have been used widely in the past, may now be regarded as
unacceptable since they draw attention to a person’s disability rather than focusing on
them as a person. The following suggestions, based on a document entitled, “A Way with
Words”, prepared by Human Resources Development Canada, may be helpful in making
us more aware of the language and words we use.

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DO NOT             USE     OR SAY              DO       USE OR SAY

Aged (the) Elderly (the)                       Seniors
Adjectives like frail, senile or feeble
suggest a negative image of seniors and
should not be used.
Birth defect, congenital defect, deformity   Person with a disability since birth,
                                             person who has a congenital
Blind (the)                                  Person who is blind, person with a
                                             visual impairment
Confined to a wheelchair, wheelchair-        Person with a disability, person with
bound                                        a mobility impairment, person who
                                             has arthritis, a spinal cord injury, etc.
Hard of hearing (the), hearing impaired      Person who is hard of hearing
                                             These individuals are not deaf and
                                             may compensate for a hearing loss
                                             with an amplification device or
Deaf-mute, deaf and dumb.                    Person who is deaf
                                             Culturally-linguistically deaf people
                                             (that is, sign language users) are
                                             properly identified as “the Deaf”
                                             (upper-case “D”). People who do not
                                             use sign language are properly
                                             referred to as “the deaf” (lower-case
                                             “d”) or “people who are deaf.”
Epileptic (the)                              Person who has epilepsy
Fit, attack, spell                           Seizure
Handicapped (the)                            Person with a disability, unless
                                             referring to an environmental
                                             attitudinal barrier. In such instances
                                             “person who is handicapped by” is
Handicapped parking, bathrooms               Accessible parking, bathrooms
Insane, lunatic, maniac, mental patient,     Persons with a mental health
mentally diseased, neurotic, psycho,         disability, person who has
psychotic, schizophrenic, unsound mind schizophrenia, person who has
The term “insane” (unsound mind)             depression. It is important to
should only be used in strictly legal sense. remember that the development of
                                             appropriate terminology is still in
                                             progress: however, the above terms
                                             are currently in use.

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DO NOT                USE    OR SAY              DO       USE OR SAY

Invalid                                          Person with a disability
The literal sense of the word “invalid” is
“not valid.”
Learning disabled, learning disordered,          A person with a learning disability or
the dyslexics                                    persons with learning disabilities
Mentally retarded,                               Person with an intellectual disability,
Defective, feeble minded, idiot, imbecile        person who is intellectually impaired.
moron, retarded, simple, mongoloid               One can say a person with Down’s
                                                 Syndrome only if relevant to the story.
Physically challenged, differently able          Person with a disability
She/he has a problem with...                     She/he has a need for...
Suffers from afflicted by stricken with          Person with a disability, person who
                                                 has cerebral palsy, etc. Having a
                                                 disability is not synonymous with
Victim of cerebral palsy, multiple               Person who has cerebral palsy,
sclerosis, arthritis, etc.                       multiple sclerosis, arthritis, etc.
                                                 Person with a disability. Person with
                                                 a mobility impairment.


1.5 Success Stories

Rowing Blind?
Feel the Power,
Feel the Fear!
by Dawn Mc Guinness
Rower, Gorge Rowing Centre

I am one of several rowers at the Gorge Rowing Centre
who are visually impaired. Peter Copland approached
the CNIB with the enthusiastic offer of teaching visually
impaired people to row and then allowing them to find
their niche in the Gorge Rowing Centre, gratis. So far,
we few have responded. Peter is hoping that more

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visually impaired people will take up the sport and that sources of funding other than
Foundation 2000+ will contribute to its continuation and expansion. The amount and type
of visual deficit we each have varies but we are all classified as legally blind (10% vision or
less). I have focused more on those of us with no vision or almost none because I think our
experience is less like the "typical" rower's experience than those of us with relatively more
vision. As for myself, I can see light, although barely. For the past several months, I have
been rowing single sculls.
There is peace available to me when I'm rowing ? peace in the slow, powerful rhythm of the
catch, drive and glide with the sweet sun on my skin or rain on the water. The sense of
solitude is exhilarating as the drone of the coach boat is swallowed by the distance and the
coach's enormous voice fades to a vague resonance that I strain to hear over the sound of
my blades. The lure of the vibrant silence, interrupted only by the woosh of blades through
the water, has impelled me to row just one more stroke and one more and one more! There
is power for us in pushing our limitations, power when we aren't having to slow ourselves
down in life just because we can't see where we're going - power in rowing regardless of
There is freedom in trusting that we won't hit something because we usually haven't. There
is trust in believing that the coach is, from a distance, watching where we are going so we
just "go"! But always, too soon, we have to stop and wait to hear the coach's distant bellow
“Strong left hand!" We need coaches to be verbally specific and detailed. It can reduce fear
of the unknown and prevent injury. For example, I used to try to row as long as I could.
Because I would overextend forward, I was told to "sit up at the catch". This doesn't mean
catch then sit up (which is what I started to do). It means don't lean so far forward that you
lean down. Confused by the imprecise wording, I didn't realize this until someone described
how my back as a whole should look at the catch. It's frustrating to be so dependent on
verbal feedback to improve my rowing technique. It would be thrilling to watch excellent
scullers and learn from them.
Learning to row without being able to see whether our blades were squared or feathered has
been quite frightening at times for us, especially when we needed to turn our singles sharply
or back up. At the sound of the coach's yell, "Now!" we would try as beginners to get our
blades evenly into the choppy water while praying they were both squared. It was sometimes
hard not to freeze or desperately flail at the water, because we believed that if we put our
blades in wrong, we would tip ourselves over - or hit something or be hit by something,
because we weren't reacting quickly enough.
How many thousands of times have we felt this fear of the unknown, of imminent
catastrophe (real or imagined). Not being able to hear the coach because of the direction of
the wind can be really scary when ferries are coming at us and we're being blown sideways
toward a bridge or moored boats.
We've been learning to work through panic and with time and experience, calm and self-trust have
replaced it. We know our hands will position our blades properly almost all the time. It's a
powerful experience to row through fear and reach a place of ease and self-confidence. To strive
for a level head in the middle of what can seem like chaos, is to strive for self-mastery (to row
regardless of whatever.). I love striving for more physical and mental power in the boat and in my
life. Working towards perfect repetition of the stroke excites me. I love the meditation and
explosion that rowing is. I love being the master of my own boat, skimming across any afternoon.

                                                                          Dawn McGinnis, Rower,
                                                                            Gorge Rowing Centre

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Adaptive sports get disabled into game
Groups show off special equipment
Sunday, September 14, 2003

By Anita Srikameswaran, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The constant threat of bad weather may have curtailed attendance, but it didn't dampen
the enthusiasm of the handful of disabled people who went yesterday to "Discover
Adaptive Sports Day."

Several local groups have programs that make it possible for amputees to row, paraplegics
to play tennis, the blind to throw darts, and much more. They demonstrated many of
those offerings yesterday at the Three Rivers Rowing Association, Washington Landing.
The event was sponsored by the Bayada Nurses, a company that provides home care.

Libby Powers, a ninth-grader at Quaker Valley High School, was eager to get into a
rowing scull, in part because her sister is a coxswain for her university team. Spina bifida
makes it difficult for Libby to walk and stand, so she sometimes uses a wheelchair.

From a set-up on the dock, Libby first practiced pulling oars through the water and
sliding on the seat while her mother, Susan Powers of Sewickley, watched. "One of the
normalizing factors for Libby is to be able to do what other kids do," Powers said. "She's
always been fantastically enthused about trying anything."

Last year, the 15-year-old was the goalie of her middle school lacrosse team because, as
she told her mother, even though she couldn't run, she could stand and stop a ball. Libby
has also tried adaptive water skiing and basketball. "She learned that if you're playing
basketball, you want to be in the chair," Powers said. "Your feet get run over if you're

Her mother watched closely as Libby got ready to climb into the boat for the first time.
"Is that really a life jacket?" Powers asked, betraying a little anxiety about her youngest
child's daring. "It looks like a fanny pack."

Back in her wheelchair after rowing with an experienced partner for several hundred
yards, Libby was so thrilled she stamped her foot in excitement. "I didn't quite know how
to do it, and then I got into it and figured it out," she said. "I'm going to do it again."

She plans to return to the rowing club to learn more about the sport.

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That's the kind of talk that Roberta "Bert" White likes to hear. She's the director of the
rowing association's special programs and one of the organizers of the event. "Everybody
who came did get a chance to try things and [they] are really enjoying it," she said. "That
was the whole purpose of it, to introduce people to a variety of sports."

White began rowing six years ago when she was 45. Her left leg was amputated above the
knee after she was hit by a car. Her physical therapist suggested the sport as a way to build
her upper body strength and abdominal muscles. Rowing was not just good for her
physically, but emotionally and socially as well. "I saw a lot of role models, other people
with disabilities who were working again and were doing sports," White recalled. "Their
lives were as normal as could be. That was really good."

When Bill Johnston rows, he uses a fixed seat. He lost both his legs above the knee while
serving in Vietnam. "Maximize what you've got and forget about what's missing is the
philosophy" of adaptive sports, he explained. And with adaptive rowing, swimming,
tennis, basketball, weight lifting, and more, Johnston can exercise year-round without
getting bored.

Clark Manny, of Three Rivers Adaptive Sports, displayed equipment that allows people
with all kinds of disabilities to water ski and snow ski. Sue Lichtenfels, of SportsVisio,
showed how a talking target and a ball that emits a loud tone allow visually-impaired
people to throw darts and play a version of baseball. Through Hope Network, wheelchair
users can participate in basketball, golf, tennis and bicycling.

Despite the low turnout, "we all feel that we would try it again," White said. "Hopefully
next year Mother Nature will give us sunny skies instead of drizzles all day."

                  Roberta “Bert” White
                  Invited Speaker, RCA Annual General
                  Meeting, 2003

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Just say row: Blindness is no handicap for
Petaluma hall-of-famer
by joe eskenazi
staff writer
When Aerial Gilbert first learned to row, her college coaches often advised her to close
her eyes, shut out the distractions of the outside world and soak in the feel of the boat.
She never could have realized how important the advice would turn out to be.

Decades later, when a bottle of tainted eyedrops robbed Gilbert of her sight in 1988, it
changed every aspect of her life. But one. “Being blind, you’re on an equal playing field in
the boat as a sighted person. You’re rowing backwards, anyway,” said Gilbert, the director
of volunteers at Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael. “As long as you have someone
to guide the boat down the river, you’re on an equal field.”

Come Sunday, March 28, Gilbert will be inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame on
eastern Long Island, N.Y., where a plaque in her name will be on permanent display.
Gilbert was nominated for the honor by a fellow U.S. national team rower.

Rowing has been a huge part of her life ever since she was first transfixed by the awesome
power and effortless synchronicity of sculls gliding across the surface of the water. But,
following her accident — which police believe was the result of a disgruntled factory
worker filling the eyedrop bottle Gilbert would eventually buy with lye — rowing has
become the 49-year-old’s catharsis and refuge.

The sudden, painful blinding left Gilbert, a busy pediatric nurse and an athlete since age 2,
unable to even walk safely around her own house. “The first six months, I didn’t handle
it well. I didn’t go anywhere or do anything. But a friend from the boathouse said, ‘I’m
taking you out rowing. You don’t have to see in order to row; we’ll take out a double,’”
recalled Gilbert, who lives in Petaluma and now rows in two- and four-person boats.

“It was like getting onto a bike after you learned how to ride when you were a kid. It was
instantaneous. There were no problems. I just jumped in the boat and started rowing.
Getting into the boat and moving through the world feeling strong and safe was an
amazing opportunity for me. … I have to say, between rowing and getting my guide dog,
those were the pivotal factors that allowed me to put my life together.”

Gilbert immediately laid her own doubts to rest, but the rest of the world took some
convincing. More than a few boathouse owners were reluctant to allow a blind rower out
onto the waves for fear she would run into something and ruin the expensive boat. They
sang a different tune, however, once they saw her out on the water.

That’s not to say there haven’t been dicey moments out there.

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While competing in a race in the last Petaluma River Regatta, a stray eight-man boat
crossed Gilbert’s path. She was smacked across the back by an oar and propelled into the
water. Gilbert had the wind knocked out of her, but quickly found her way back into the
boat, kept rowing, and her two-person boat finished second in the race.

In addition to rowing in Master’s Division tournaments, Gilbert has helped to start up an
“adaptive division” U.S. national team boat, featuring a pair of blind rowers and a pair of
above-the-knee amputees. Competing in the 2002 World Rowing Championships in
Milan, Gilbert’s adaptive boat took home the bronze medal.

Her inauguration in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame — yes, she says with a laugh, there is
such a thing — is a double victory. Not only is it a win for disabled athletes, it’s also a big
step for an athlete in a non-major sport.

But Gilbert’s biggest thrill will come when more young people hop into boats and prove
that blindness may be a disability, but it’s no handicap. “There are sports where blind kids
can participate with other blind kids, but there are no other sports where blind youth can
participate equally with sighted kids,” she said.

“Since I’ve lost my sight, rowing is the only time during my waking hours when I can
forget I’m blind. Other times, I’m really aware of it. But I put all my power into it and I
don’t have to worry about running into everything. I can just row.”

CopyrightJ, the Jewish News Weekly of Northern California

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