Winnipeg accessible sport expo brings hundreds of participants to University of Manitoba

An expo for accessible sports brought out hundreds of participants to the University of Manitoba’s Investors Group Athletic Centre on Sunday, as well as occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and support workers.

Sports were adapted for people with disabilities and older active adults. The expo showcased 28 adapted sports, including archery, cycling, basketball and weightlifting.

“Whether people have disabilities or maybe just move through the world differently, they may think that sports aren’t for them,” participant Erika Rodeck said.

The visually impaired 29-year-old said she doesn’t think of herself as athletic, but enjoys trying new things.

“I think these events show that sports really can be for anyone. It’s just finding the right fit and being able to do things in a way that works for everyone.” she said.

Rodeck swims recreationally and used to cycle with the Vision Impaired Resource Network, an organization that brings activities to people who are visually impaired, on their tandem bikes before the pandemic started.

Rodeck tried bocce ball, rock climbing and a different type of cycling at the expo. She used an adaptive bike, which had a seat with a high back and allowed her to pedal and steer the bike on her own.

Erika Rodeck, who is visually impaired, enjoyed trying new activities in an accessible and supportive environment. (Megan Goddard/CBC)

Organizer Kirby Cote said the expo is an opportunity to create community and support people of all ages and abilities to get active.

“We just wanted to create a space where people can gather and learn about all the different resources and programs that are available to them here in the city,” Cote said.

The event originated with Sam Unrau, the former executive director of the Manitoba Wheelchair Sport Association. 

Cote has since helped grow the event, which saw close to 300 people on Sunday.

“There’s so many barriers to participating in a sport, and it’s hard to just sign up for one and know whether you’re going to like it, or if you connect with the coach and the program [and] if the adaptive equipment works for you,” she said.

Cote said having over two dozen adaptive sports and activities to try in one accessible space helps knock down some barriers.

Rodeck said she sees events like the expo as an opportunity to gain the confidence and skill to eventually try sports in other environments, too.

“I swam with Blind Sports for a while, and I don’t swim with them anymore, but I have a love for swimming. I was able to branch out and do that in other places and in the community with people who are both disabled and non-disabled,” she said.

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