| Sports on Ice
on ice can be great fun when the slippery stuff allows you to propel
yourself around at high speeds. Zipping around with other folks
provides a great sense of freedom and comradery. Sure, the ice and
snow can be a nuisance on the streetscold, slick and often
treacherous! But around a rink or down a hill, it's a hoot!
Several adapted forms of ice-skating are described
below that cover a broad range of possibilities for people with
disabilities. See if one looks good to you. Just remember to protect
yourself from injury by using the appropriate equipment, and learn
to laugh at yourself while you master new skills!
You know what to do: Only take
lessons from certified instructors or recreational therapists,
consult them about equipment, wear protective padding if needed,
and bundle up! Don't forget sunscreen and ski goggles or sunglasses.
Manufacturers of many types of adaptive
sports equipment, including sledge hockey equipment:
Access to Recreation, Inc.
Adaptive equipment of all kinds
Adaptive sports equipment and adapted sports events.
Midwest Skate Co.
Contact: Jeff Penner
25 Rothsay Ave.
Kitchener, Ontario Canada N2B3A2
Unique Inventions Inc.
Adaptive sports equipment.
Orthotic and Prosthetic Devices
Visit the Hosmer Dorrance Co. Web site for a full line of
upper and lower extremity devices:
Kingsley Mfg. Co.
In 1976, while working as a professional
skating instructor in Buffalo, Elizabeth M. O'Donnell had the unique
idea to teach people who were blind how to ice skate. Initial success
led to the formation of the Skating Association for the Blind
and Handicapped, Inc. (SABAH, Inc.) as a Buffalo-based not-for-profit
educational corporation in 1977. Soon after its initial efforts,
SABAH expanded to include children, youth, and adults with all types
of disabilities. For more than 22 years, SABAH has taught 9,000
Western New Yorkers who have physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges
to ice skate. This past year, locally raised funds provided instruction
to more than 800 people with disabilities, each week. SABAH provides
weekly adaptive ice-skating lessons, adaptive skating equipment,
intense volunteer support, and the opportunity to perform in an
annual skating spectacular.
The most popular device for skating is a
support walker with runners at the base. Several different models
are available from SABAH. Walkers are helpful to people with lower
extremity impairments, balance and/or stability problems.
An outrigger with a blade attached to its base is used for support
and propulsion power. It is somewhat like a walking crutch. Outriggers
are also used for adapted skiing but with a short ski attached to
Ankle support is a concern for most skaters, but when there is additional
ankle weakness from a disability, the results can be very limiting.
However, some people are able to use an ankle-foot orthotic (AFO)
inserted into a skate or shoe to stabilize the ankle and prevent
injury. In fact, many people wear an AFO as an everyday mobility
aid. Orthotic inserts have been most useful to people with spastic
cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, head and lower lumbar spinal
cord injuries. A physician can prescribe one for you.
If an individual's disability is too severe to make use of the above
devices, a wheelchair runner allows for passive participation on
hard-packed snow. Wheelchair runners were invented at a park system
in Ottawa, Canada, and adapted from standard snowmobile steering
Skating Association for the Blind
and Handicapped, Inc. (SABAH)
The United States Association for
Blind Athletes (USABA)
The USABA is a sports organization for people with blindness or
visual impairments. They offer competition in speed skating, which
is accomplished through a variety of guide systems, including sighted
guides, callers, audio cones or a combination of sighted guides
and callers. Courses are laid out with bright cones.The USABA has
more than 55 state chapters throughout the United States, and more
than 1,500 members who compete in eight summer and three winter
Ice sledding is the seated equivalent of
ice-skating. Originating in Norway around the mid-19th century,
it is enjoyed as "ice-picking" by Canadians. It is usually
done on a speed skating oval, propelled by picking sticks or shortened
As you might have guessed, most winter
ice sports came from Norway via Canada. Sledge hockey was first
played in Norway back in the 1960s. The word "sledge"
means "sled" in Norwegian. Legend has it that the sledges
were designed by ice fishermen to get to their ice-houses on the
lakes, and while waiting for their traps to trip, they would skate
around on the sledges.
This quickly led to games of sledge hockey and
sledge races. Sledge hockey started to spread to other European
countries, and was played in Canada about 25 to 30 years ago.
In 1989, John Schatzlien brought sledge hockey
to the United States. He established a program in the Minneapolis
area and later in Wisconsin. Mr. Schatzlien founded the American
Sledge Hockey Association (ASHA). He remained president until
1998, when Rich DeGlopper of Buffalo, N.Y., took over as president.
How It's Played:
The word "sledge" has gradually
changed to "sled" in the United States and parts of Canada,
and there is ongoing debate about whether the game should be called
"sledge" or "sled" hockey.
The sledge is the wheelchair athlete's answer
to ice skates. Sledge hockey allows individuals with a variety of
disabilities to play an exciting version of hockey. Sledge hockey
is played with six players on a team, and a standard hockey puck
or small playground ball is used. Hockey helmets, gloves and elbow
pads are required, while additional padding and masks are optional.
The primary piece of equipment is the sledge itself.
This is an oval-shaped metal frame that has three points of contact
with the ice: two skate-like blades and a small runner. A seat with
a backrest goes on top of the sledge and will vary in size. A plastic-molded
office chair with its metal legs removed makes a good seat. Leg
straps are used to keep legs in one position. Also, some sledges
have push handles on them so players with limited upper body strength
can be pushed on the ice by a more able-bodied skater.
Picks are metal pieces with teeth on the end.
The pick is attached to the end of a shortened hockey stick (29
inches). Each pick must have a minimum of three teeth, and teeth
must measure no longer than four millimeters. Each stick must have
two picks (a minimum of six teeth).
Sticks originally were regular hockey sticks cut
in half, but the blade angle would not work because a sledge hockey
player is closer to the ground than a standing hockey player. Today
sticks are specially made for sled/sledge hockey. They're made of
wood, aluminum or carbon fiber. Some players attach blades to aluminum
or carbon filter shafts.
The player propels himself/herself down the ice
very much like a cross-country skier and the pics dig into the ice,
giving the player traction. When he or she gets near the puck, the
player slides a hand down the shaft of the stick where the picks
are attached. This gives the player the leverage to shoot the puck
with the blade end of the stick. A player's hands can be taped or
attached with Velcro to the glove and stick if grasping is difficult.
Be sure to see our sports organizations
page for the related organizations mentioned above.
Note: Information on adapting sports was excerpted
with permission from Sports and Recreation for the Disabled, 2nd
edition, by Michael J. Paciorek and Jeffrey A. Jones (See recommended