Screen Readers Skip to Content

Disability Water Sports: News & Information

Updated/Revised Date: 2015-11-07

Synopsis: Watersports for persons with disabilities including swimming sailing water skiing and scuba diving.

Main Document

Disabled water sports, also known as Adaptive Water Sports, programs provide accessible water sports and recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Recent Publications:

Disability sailing is for people with physical disabilities and vision impairments. Classification is based on vision, mobility, stability and hand function. Disability sailing classification is the method of allowing sailors with different disabilities to compete, with classification being based on vision, mobility, stability and hand function. Classification is handled by the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS).

Specially designed equipment makes water skiing, wake boarding, scuba diving, sailing, windsurfing, rowing, surfing, and kayaking possible for people with various levels of mobility and ability.

Participation in water sports like kayaking and sailing builds confidence and self esteem, while it challenges the whole person.

The Disabled World water sports category provides listings and articles on water sport opportunities regardless of disability.

Some of the water sports for persons with disabilities include:

Scuba diving - Courses in learning to scuba dive take place in most areas so check locally for details. There are some basic requirements which you must meet before you learn.

Surfing - Surfing has become very popular in recent years for persons with disabilities.

Canoeing - People with or without a disability can participate in canoeing although it is important as a beginner to choose water conditions which are not too rough.

Rowing and sailing - Rowing is relatively cheap. You will need to pay something for the cost of joining a club which will give you access to a boat. Clothing is simple shorts and vest. Skulling is a form of rowing where the rower uses two oars. In rowing the rower only uses one.

Disability Sailing:

Sailing for athletes with a disability began in the 1980's and was introduced as a Paralympic sport in at the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games as a demonstration sport before being given full medal status at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000.

In 1988, the International Handicap Sailing Committee (IHSC), which organized regattas and promoted sailing for people with a disability, was created and in 1990 sailing was accepted as a demonstration sport into the World Games for people with a disability.

Today the sport offers persons with disabilities the opportunity to experience the freedom of sailing.

Many standard boats are suitable for people with disabilities which can be made more accessible by adaptations. Also you will find more and more boats and yachts are being designed with disabled people in mind and used regularly around the world by people with disabilities.


Sailability is a world wide organization,which supports and facilitates sailing activities for everybody regardless of ability.

In 1991 Sailability was introduced to Australia, where there are currently over fifty groups covering every State and Territory,

Sailability World Inc. also operates in numerous countries throughout the world, through activities at local Sailability clubs including France, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Greece, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Japan, Malaysia, Timor Leste and USA with new national Sailability organizations currently being established in all parts of the world. Sailability is a "not for profit", volunteer-based organization which, through the activity of sailing, enriches the lives of people with any type of disability, the elderly, the financially and socially disadvantaged.

Safety is a concern with disabled sailors as it is with all other seafarers.

For instance a lack of balance, mobility or agility may require extra support, boat seats, harnesses and life-jackets. Impaired vision can lead to stumbling over unseen obstructions and obstacles. Impaired hearing can mean failure to hear a shouted warning. There are many things you should be aware of if you intend to take up sailing and have a disability. Luckily your local disability sailing group can supply you with answers to your concerns as highly qualified instructors have experience within all aspects of the watersports industry.

There are many adaptations made to the boats to make them safe, for example special boat seats allow the sailors to position themselves so they can control the tiller and sheet without fear of falling. These seats can be as simple as a lawn chair modified to fit a cockpit or as complex as a translating seat, which allows a sailor to switch sides.

Contact your nearest boat club for details of boating opportunities provided for people with disabilities.

Subtopics and Associated Subjects

Disabled World is an independent disability community founded in 2004 to provide disability news and information to people with disabilities, seniors, their family and/or carers. See our homepage for informative reviews, exclusive stories and how-tos. You can connect with us on social media such as Twitter and Facebook or learn more about Disabled World on our about us page.

Disabled World provides general information only. Materials presented are in no way meant to be a substitute for professional medical care by a qualified practitioner, nor should they be construed as such. Any 3rd party offering or advertising on does not constitute endorsement by Disabled World.

Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2015, November 7). Disability Water Sports: News & Information. Disabled World. Retrieved January 21, 2022 from