Warning disabled children get priced out of sports

time:2023-06-03 02:47:50source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center 1

Disabled people are being priced out of playing sports, a junior basketball player for Wales has warned.

Equipment such as specialist sports wheelchairs can make taking part very costly, Jac said.

The 13-year-old, who has spina bifida, has been playing basketball since he was eight and his condition prevented him from continuing to play football.

"Basketball means so much to me. Without basketball my life wouldn't be the same," he said.

Jac has had four operations and doctors were at first unsure if he would be able to walk.

But at the age of two, Jac took his first steps, claiming the first of many impressive achievements.

"I played football until I was eight or nine years old. It felt good proving the doctors wrong. I was a goalkeeper for Pwllheli. That was a lot of fun," he said.

But then came a point when Jac had to stop playing due to his condition so he decided to join his best friend Steffan and take up wheelchair basketball and he "hasn't looked back since".

Since joining, Jac and Steffan, who has cerebral palsy, have starred for their team Caernarfon Celts.

"It's so much fun and such a big part of my life. It's really great," Jac said.

Steffan was diagnosed at 15 months old and had to wear a splint and frame everyday as a toddler.

He said: "I was told I wouldn't be able to walk. I was weak physically but because of the therapy I got stronger and flexible."

Both boys learned to play wheelchair basketball in club-owned chairs. But as Jac and Steffan developed as players, they both faced their next challenge - buying new basketball wheelchairs worth £6,000 each.

According to Jac, the cost of the chairs is symbolic of a wider problem facing people with disabilities.

"I don't feel it's fair that equipment for disabled people is often more expensive. [Spending] £6,000 for a wheelchair is a lot, and a lot of people can't afford that. I couldn't afford it myself."

Without the support of people like Jac's basketball coach Deb Bashford and the help of a fundraising campaign which helped both boys, they would never have got their chairs.

Steffan said getting the "better, faster" wheelchair was a "gamechanger" for him.

Jac said: "The high prices are stopping people from doing sport and changing their lives."

This is not the first time the two have faced the challenge of raising money to buy specialist equipment.

When he was four, Steffan helped raise £1,600 for Jac to buy a bike. He agrees that things are often too expensive.

"These things are amazing to have, they can change our lives. But they cost so much brass, it's very difficult to get them."

With the help of Caernarfon Celts basketball team coach Deb and donations from the public, the two managed to raise the money needed to buy the chairs.

"They really needed those new chairs. Yes, they are very expensive, but both had reached a level where they had to have high-level chairs. The old ones were really beginning to hold them back," Deb said.

"I've had players reach the Welsh team before but Steff and Jac are going to go so much further in the sport, especially now that they have these new chairs."

According to a survey by Disability Sports Wales, only 24% of children with disabilities participate in sports outside of school.

Wheelchair basketball player Ella said: "I used to see Steffan and Jac playing basketball and I thought that sounded really fun, but I didn't have the confidence to play it myself.

"But seeing their success and hearing about how much they enjoy it made me think, why not give it a go?"

Steffan and Jac are now turning their attention once again to the upcoming trials for the Wales team and are hopeful their new wheelchairs will help them succeed.

"I feel a lot faster now with the new chair. I can get past people much more easily, dribble well, and hopefully be a valuable player for the team," said Jac.

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