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Sport / More opportunities on the horizon as charity joins disability sport network

Ability Shetland team leader Stephanie Bain (left) and Charis Scott, the charity's sports development coordinator, with their branch certificate.

ABILITY Shetland has become an official branch of Scottish Disability Sport – with the charity saying the move will increase opportunities for local people.

Team leader Stephanie Bain said the charity applied to become a branch in “order to connect with other areas of the country and provide opportunities for our athletes to train, compete and connect with other athletes with disabilities”.

Its “branch journey” started off as the small voluntary group, ‘Shetland Sport For All’, which was made up of professionals from health and social care, individuals with disabilities, parents/carers, Ability Shetland and the local authority.

This group wanted to make sure that people with disabilities were included and able to access sport and physical activity, particularly due to the popularity of sport across the islands, but also because of the physical and mental benefits of being active.

When an adapted cycling programme was developed in 2017 “we realised due to its popularity, we needed a dedicated, paid officer to drive this and the overall aspirations of Shetland Sport for All forward”, Bain said.

“At the same time, Scottish Disability Sport supported us to become involved with the Active Shetland Strategy and get disability sport represented better in Shetland,” she added.

“With the help of Scottish Disability Sport, Ability Shetland created a development plan and submitted funding bids to Shetland Charitable Trust and sportscotland to cover the costs of a sports development coordinator.

“Despite only recently going through the process of becoming a branch, we have been able to access so many opportunities, have discovered participants who were new to our organisation and have supported some of the islands’ many clubs and groups to become more inclusive.”

Scottish Disability Sport CEO Gavin MacLeod said he was “absolutely delighted” to welcome Ability Shetland into the fold.

Regional manager Alison Shaw also said that Ability Shetland has “worked tirelessly to get to this point”.

“Their hard work has paid off though as they’re already reaping the benefits of having a dedicated member of staff in post and being part of the SDS network.”