Curling with a Disability
As a sport, curling is uniquely adaptable to athletes of various abilities. While many curling centres in Ontario were built in the 1950’s or 1960’s and still lack accessibility features, in the past few decades many curling centres across Ontario have utilized Trillium capital project grants, and other sources of funding, to retro-fit entranceway and arena access so that the sport can be enjoyed by everyone.
As a result, many curling centres across Ontario offer wheelchair curling programs, stick curling, and programs for visually impaired individuals. In addition, there are regional, provincial, and national championships offered by the Ontario Curling Council, the Ontario Curling Association (CurlON), the Northern Ontario Curling Association (NOCA), Curling Canada, and the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB). Interested in further information about any of these programs? Contact Jennifer Ferris, the OCC’s Manager of Programs and Operations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many Active-for-Life curlers are able to continue to participate in the sport of curling with the use of the “stick.” The Ontario Curling Council’s member associations, CurlON and NOCA, have embraced stick curling and permit its use in many of their competitions. Check for specific event rules published with each competition.
In addition, there are both Provincial and National Stick Curling competitions held each year. This year’s national championship was held in Nanaimo, BC, from March 29-April 2.
Curling for the Visually Impaired
The Ontario Curling Council has recently started working with the Ontario Blind Curling Association, in an effort to include Vision-impaired curlers in some of our para-competitions. Vision-impaired Curling differs little from regular curling – there are four players, but the team benefits from the use of a designated sweeper, and a guide to help line up the curlers and communicate the shots called by the skip. Each event follows a classification system for the visual acuity of the team.
Vision-impaired Curling is included at the ParaSport Winter Games.
Wheelchair Curling has grown in popularity due to Canada’s tremendous success at the Paralympics since its inclusion as an official Olympic sport. Wheelchair curling teams consist of four players – with a minimum of one female player per team. Wheelchair Curling is open to individuals who are non-ambulant or can only walk short distances. This includes athletes with significant impairments in lower leg/gait function, such as spinal injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or double leg amputation, who use a wheelchair for daily mobility.
In Ontario, not all curling clubs are wheelchair accessible, but vibrant programs exist across the province to provide opportunities for individuals in wheelchairs to try curling. Recreational and competitive programs exist and many wheelchair athletes are integrated into league play with able-bodied curlers.
Multiple wheelchair competitions occur in Ontario each year, such as the Ontario Wheelchair Curling Open – and some competitions lead to a national championship.