Celebrating Disability Independence Day

July 26, 2022 marks the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a civil rights law that promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of life. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability just as other civil rights laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to pursue employment, purchase goods and services, and participate in state and local government programs.

Sailing is Inclusive

According to the 2019 US Census, approximately 41 million Americans, or 12.7% of the population, have a disability. Sailing is a sport of freedom – of the wind, water, body, and spirit – and can be an empowering recreational opportunity for all people. Sailing is also unique because the rules are consistent across classes – having a disability only means that adaptations may be necessary to maximize a sailor’s ability; instruction and racing remain the same. In fact, racing can be incredibly inclusive. For example, the upcoming Independence Cup, the US Sailing Para Sailing Championship, is a premier regatta for racing sailors with disabilities and will be held August 4-7, 2022.

Adaptive Sailing

Our philosophy at US Sailing is that everyone should have access to the sport of sailing. Sailing can accommodate a wide range of abilities and we support the development and promotion of sailing for all, regardless of skill level or physical ability. Adaptive sailing programs provide broadened access to the water and meaningful sailing experiences for persons with disabilities. With the use of adaptive equipment, individuals can function more independently and participate both recreationally and competitively. Adaptations can be pieces of equipment like chairs or benches with support, additional purchase on sheets and lines, or alternative cues for sailors like auditory or tactile indicators. They can be added to a boat, or modified, to facilitate safe and effectives steering, sheeting and other sailing maneuvers on the water. Many kinds of adaptations have been designed, developed, and standardized to help sailors, and many more are being invented all the time.

To further provide support for sailors with disabilities, US Sailing created the Adaptive Center Accreditation Program. The accreditation recognizes programs that are offering high-quality adaptive programming throughout the United States. Programs of all types (i.e., both year-round and seasonal; junior and adult, etc.) are eligible, provided they meet the specific guidelines set forth by the Para Sailing Committee. The goal of the Adaptive Sailing Center network is to help formalize the level of instruction throughout the United States and create more opportunities for individuals will all types of abilities. Information on current adaptive schools and the accreditation process can be found on our website: https://www.ussailing.org/education/adult/adaptive-sailing/accreditation/

Adaptive Sailing Instructor

US Sailing also offers an Adaptive Sailing Instructor Workshop. While in the course, participants learn to identify different disabilities and to facilitate positive learning experiences for sailors with a disability. Participants practice adapting boats to bodies and simulate supporting differing abilities while in the classroom and on the water. The workshop also covers different teaching techniques when working with individuals with cognitive differences. The focus is placed on team building, with group exercises on how to work together and promote sailing for all. Details regarding upcoming courses can be found on our website: https://www.ussailing.org/education/adult/adaptive-sailing/instructor-workshop/

Back the Bid

World Sailing, the global federation for the sport, has outlined a series of strategic priorities to support growth and to meet key criteria set by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for inclusion of para sailing in the Los Angeles 2028 Paralympic Games. Focusing on diversity, inclusion, affordability, development, and increasing the number of open and Para sailing events are all part of World Sailing’s framework to build on the success of Para sailing. Goals include increasing worldwide participation to 45 nations on 6 continents, increasing youth participation (below the age of 30) to 20% of total athletes, and growing the number of female participants to 30% by 2023.

Learn more about the Back the Bid campaign: https://www.ussailing.org/news/back-the-bid-world-sailing-campaign/