Archery is a sport that nearly anyone can pursue, despite the disability they experience. Target archery itself has been a Paralympic sport for greater than thirty years. The Paralympic program includes doubles, singles, and team events which use the same scoring and competition protocols as the Olympic games. The governing body is the Federation Internationale de Tir L'Arc, or the Federation of International Target Archery (FITA).
Archery is a sport that nearly anyone can pursue, despite the disability they experience.
In Kent, England there is a considerable amount of support for persons with disabilities who desire to try the sport and develop their archery skills. In Kent there are three disability archery clubs that are affiliated with the Grand National Archery Society, the sports governing body. The clubs are specifically for persons with disabilities; although there are several clubs which are pleased to accept non-disabled members as well.
There are a number of day centers around England where people can try out archery; the majority of them have all of the equipment that is needed. Grants are available to assist promising archers with disabilities to purchase their own equipment. Small manufacturers assist people with disabilities in making items such as quivers for wheelchair use. Additional organizations help through providing information concerning the Kent Association for the Blind and the Kent Outdoor Pursuits Disability Project.
Archery was introduced into the Kent Youth Parallel Games in 2002, and led to several of the schools and designated units in Kent including it in their regular sporting activities. Meadowfield School in Sittingbourne has included archery as a part of its regular curriculum; it organizes competitions with other schools such as Dorton House School in Seal - a part of the Royal London School for the Blind, and Valence School in Westerham, which already has archery for some of their physical education lessons. There are a number of other schools in Kent with similar options.
Schools such as Riverside in Rainham are obtaining equipment needed in order to setup an after-school club for persons who are visually impaired, as are Wyvern School in Ashford, Danecourt School in Gillingham, and St. Werburgh Center in Hoo. Assistance is being provided in identifying sources for both funding and support with completion of relevant application forms. Leadership courses that are archery-specific are arranged so that staff members may gain recognition for teaching qualifications.
Archers with visual impairments are categorized by their visual acuity, with separate classes for these categories. The categories are designated as, B1, B2, B3, and B4 according to a sight test by the British Blind Sport. For archers with visual disabilities who are unable to see a target, tactile sight is used. A tactile sight is a pointer, mounted upon a tripod, that the archer touches with the back of their hand in order to determine both the arrow's elevation and direction. Via British Blind Sport, the nation is the world's leader in unification of standards and rules for international competition for archers with visual impairments.
The Kent Tournament for Archers with a Disability was established in 2004. The year 2005 found the event being hosted by Ashford Archers, and attended by twenty-six competitors from throughout both Kent and Essex. A number of companies donated trophies. Ten-Ring donated targets, and Kent's archery shop and the event continue to gain support through the Kent Outdoor Pursuits Disability Project.
Target archery itself has been a Paralympic sport for greater than thirty years. The Paralympic program includes doubles, singles, and team events which use the same scoring and competition protocols as the Olympic games. The governing body is the Federation Internationale de Tir L'Arc, or the Federation of International Target Archery (FITA). Paralympic competition is limited to athletes with spinal injuries, cerebral palsy, lower limb impairments, and les autres conditions. Archers in the Paralympic Games compete in both standing and wheelchair classifications.
The playing field design is similar to competitions for athletes who are able-bodied. The target is set at a distance of 294 feet away from the archer; the target itself has a maximum size of forty-eight inches in diameter. The target is divided into ten concentric rings with a gold bulls-eye in the center. Scoring rules and protocols are identical to those used in the Olympic games, with points being earned by archers for each arrow which strikes the target. Archers receive a score of ten points if they hit the bulls-eye and one point if they hit the outer ring. The nearer the arrow hits to the bulls-eye, the higher the points the archer earns.
The athletes in the Paralympics use a recurve bow made of graphite, wood, carbon composites, or fiberglass. The arrows they use are made of either aluminum or carbon graphite. The weights and lengths of the bows they use vary considerably; anywhere from four to six feet. Persons who use wheelchairs and children are recommended to use a forty-eight inch bow. The following draw-weights are recommended in fitting an athlete to a bow:
Children ten years: 10 to 15 pound bow
Children 10 - 12 years: 15 to 20 pound bow
Women and Teenage Girls: 20 to 30 pound bow
Men and Teenage Boys: 30 to 40 pound bow
People who want to hunt usually start with bows that weigh between forty and fifty pounds. Archers who use wheelchairs do not require any equipment modifications. Wheelchair archers position themselves at ninety-degree angles from their target; they may also remove their front armrest to give themselves an increased draw of the bow string. Wheelchair archers are permitted to use both seat and back cushions with restrictions on the thickness. Generally; their seat cushions are restricted to fifteen centimeters, while back cushions are restricted to five centimeters.
Archers who experience a significant upper extremity disability are permitted to utilize a device which secures the bow to their hand, such as a sophisticated universal cuff, or something as simple as either tying or bandaging the bow to their hand. The person is also allowed to have another person, 'nock,' the arrow into their bow. The person assisting the archer may not; however, provide the archer with any form of verbal advice, coaching, or tips - or disrupt other competitors.
Archers who have bilateral, above-knee amputations with shortness of residual limbs prohibiting the use of prostheses or bilateral hip articulation are allowed to use either body support or strapping from the base of their wheelchair. There is a great amount of specificity regarding the use of both strapping and body support systems. Generally; a chest strap may be no wider than fifty millimeters, and placed no less than 110 millimeters below the archer's armpit. Sighting aids can be used if they comply with FITA rules on shooting outdoor archery targets.
In almost every field, persons with disabilities are participating in activities that were not thought to be possible in the past, including bowhunting. The use of adaptive equipment has assisted even persons with severe disabilities to participate in bowhunting with a compound or crossbow. The Physically Challenged Bow Hunters of America is a national organization that has helped thousands of persons with physical disabilities to learn how to participate in the sport of archery, and how to bowhunt. The organization has become a central source of information on techniques, equipment sources, and encouragement for persons with disabilities who want to participate in the sports of archery and bowhunting. They hold regular archery events, as well as hunts for persons with disabilities.
Many times, the crossbow is viewed as the answer for persons who are not able to use a compound bow in the traditional manner for hunting. There are additional options which permit persons with physical disabilities to use a compound bow instead of a crossbow. Archers who have only one strong arm draw their bow with their teeth using a fabric tab on the bowstring, which is held in the person's teeth while their good arm straightens to draw the bow with the arrow nocked. The person then relaxes their jaw in order to fire the arrow.
Perhaps the most useful piece of adaptive equipment is referred to as a, 'draw lock.' A draw lock holds the person's bow at full draw until a trigger is activated. While a draw lock-equipped bow is essentially the functional equivalent of a crossbow, the experience of using such a bow is similar to that of using a compound bow instead of a crossbow. An advantage of of using a draw lock is that persons who are strength impaired can draw the bow between their hands and feet using their stronger back and leg muscles. One down point to the use of a draw lock is that it does add weight to the person's bow.
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