Kayak Clubs Working Hard Towards Welcoming Disabled Paddlers

Winter is often considered a quiet time for kayaking but that has not been the case for many of our clubs and coaches who have been working alongside Canoe Racing NZ towards making the PaddleAble Commitment and becoming more disability inclusive organisations.


PaddleAble has been developed by Canoe Racing NZ to support our vision of an inclusive paddling community where disabled paddlers can participate alongside their non-disabled peers, both recreationally and at events.

What a PaddleAble Commitment Means – Much More than a Checkbox Exercise

The PaddleAble Commitment signals that the paddling club or organisation has and is taking action to ensure they can cater for, and provide positive paddling opportunities to disabled participants.

By working through the steps and signing the commitment, clubs, paddling providers and/or events are demonstrating their understanding and recognising their on-going responsibilities to being a disability inclusive organisation, and a champion for disabled paddlers.


“We are incredibly thrilled to be working with multiple CRNZ-affiliated clubs currently who are making the PaddleAble commitment” said Aaron Osborne, PaddleAble Project Lead.


“The effort by these clubs and coaches is going to change lives, and grow and improve our sport. It has been awesome to see the enthusiasm towards this project  and we are looking forward to having multiple PaddleAble clubs welcoming new disabled paddlers this summer.”

Why is PaddleAble so Important?

11% of children and 24% of adults in New Zealand identify as disabled, and research shows disabled people are less likely to participate in sport and active recreation, or have positive participation experiences. Lack of suitable opportunities, lack of appropriate equipment or facilities contribute towards this, as well as societal attitudes and low visibility or awareness that participation is possible.


Canoe Racing NZ, with funding support from Sport New Zealand, are aiming to address these issues and have spent the last 12 months developing and piloting the PaddleAble framework.


While modifying equipment and adapting what we do are important factors for any disability inclusive paddling activity, coaches and administrators must understand the fundamentals behind the wider disability inclusion sector.



Step/actions centre around the following pillars:

  • A commitment to being disability inclusive
  • Adopt an inclusive approach and culture
  • Will cater for and provide opportunities for disabled people
  • Will modify paddling equipment and adapt activity to support paddlers with a range of disabilities
  • Ensure coaches/volunteers receive disability inclusive training
  • Assessed and made a commitment to enhance club facilities to support disabled paddlers
  • Develop systems to support disabled paddlers

There are simple but vital steps that are often forgotten about.


“Having a statement on your website saying your club is able to cater for disabled people and a space on a signup form for a participant to state that they have an impairment or additional accessibility or support requirements are examples of the simple things that go a long way in making someone feel like they are welcome and will be catered for,” says Aaron.

PaddleAble Disability Inclusion Education Rolling Out


As part of this Canoe Racing NZ in collaboration with the Halberg Foundation have developed PaddleAble Disability inclusion education, which includes an online session as well as a practical session. So far over 45 people have completed the education.

The course is suitable if you are coaching, volunteering, supporting participants with disabilities or are wanting to develop a more supportive disability inclusive club/paddling provider environment.


There are also educational resources created to provide information, insights and ideas that will assist coaches, clubs and paddling providers to understand, engage and empower disabled paddlers to ensure they have positive paddling experiences.


Clubs Beginning to Make the PaddleAble Commitment


A number of clubs have been putting in have been putting in the mahi over the last few months to make the PaddleAble commitment, with many others expressing their interest in starting the process.


“As an organisation we’re very proud of the way many clubs and members have embraced this new programme. We can’t wait to see the positive impact that PaddleAble will have on our sport over the next 12 months and beyond,” says Aaron.


***Learn more about PaddleAble here

***If your club or organistion would like to become PaddleAble endorsed or work towards becoming more Disability Inclusive please make contact with Aaron Osborne – aaron.osborne@canoeracing.org.nz

***If you are interested in attending PaddleAble Disability Inclusion Education please complete the following form click here

***If you would like to learn more about Paracanoe racing click here