Sport for All

When I first went to Trinidad & Tobago as a Commonwealth Games Canada intern in 2008, I was sent to work on Ready & Able, a sport program for people living with disabilities. Since then, I have worked at both the community level and in special schools in the region.

For the schools, we took the Game On program—a youth sports initiative that looks at the development of fundamental motor skills—and made it adaptable for people living with disabilities. For example, we adapted the training component to stress inclusiveness and added content to the manual describing simple ways games can be modified for people with different disabilities. With “Red Light Green Light,” for example, you can have someone in a wheelchair do one push instead of one step.

The schools program was piloted in three special schools in Trinidad in 2009. We recently did workshops in St. Vincent for three more schools, and I have workshops scheduled for the rest of the special schools here. We’re also getting a lot of requests from national sporting organizations for Ready & Able workshops. The Ministry of Sport held its first-ever camp for children living with disabilities in April 2010, and asked us to train its coaches and volunteers prior to the camp.

Ready & Able isn’t just about getting people living with disabilities out and active. It’s also about bringing people together through sport and giving them a chance to see what connections they can make for employment, education and friendship. We started a community program in the central region of Trinidad, which now has about 20 participants with physical, intellectual and visual impairments. When you see somebody in a wheelchair guiding someone with a visual impairment through a game, you really experience the life-changing power of sport. There was one fellow there who had recently become blind, and he hadn’t yet reintegrated into the community. He lived alone and only went out once a week—to attend this sport program. It was great to see him get involved with the other participants. One even taught him to use a cell phone. Another wanted to teach him how to read Braille. Out of this sport program, these life skills, coping mechanisms and friendships are being born.