Sport now accessible to all students in Far North Queensland with ‘All Abilities Day’

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As a physical education teacher, Michael Arcidiacono realised early on in his career that more needed to be done to accommodate children with a disability when it came to playing sport.

Using his contacts and experience, Michael developed and now leads an ‘All Abilities Day’ for Children in Far North Queensland, a school sporting event dedicated to all ability and special needs students, where they can come together to participate in a variety of mainstream sports with slight modifications and adjustments.    

According to the Disability Standards for Education Report in 2015, 39% of parents revealed that their children had been excluded from school activities due to their disability.

The ‘All Abilities Day’ is region-wide and encourages local sporting organisations to get involved by catering programs to students of all abilities, with each school group rotating through the different sports available.

The main purpose of the day is to provide fun, friendship development and participation in a non-competitive environment for students with disabilities.

Michael said one of the greatest benefits of the program is seeing local sporting organisations introduce dedicated programs for all abilities students, with cricket being the best sport to modify and adapt.

“Cricket is one of the original sports in the very first All Abilities Day in 2014 and is a perfect example of how sport can be modified to include all of our students, with bigger and softer balls, cricket tees and lighter bats.”

Last year’s program hosted 150 students and 12 different sports. The event also works to upskill PE teachers from surrounding schools on how to best integrate all students in mainstream PE lessons.

Michael said it’s important for teachers to have the knowledge, training and understanding of what they can do to make sure they have an inclusive education policy at their school.

“Many teachers do not feel capable of, or don’t have a complete understanding of how to incorporate sport such as cricket into their curriculum, and more importantly, what modifications can be made to make these sports accessible to all students.

“When working with students with a disability, you need to focus and emphasise that each student has the same right to play mainstream sport as any other student attending that school.

“I find that most students are pretty resilient and we just need to provide them with the opportunities that they would not otherwise have.

“We hope to allow students to identify a sport that they may take a further interest in and join one of the sporting clubs or just play as a leisure activity with friends and families,” said Michael.
Michael’s story is part of Cricket Australia’s Community Champion initiative, which seeks to share the stories of local heroes making cricket a great game for all.

Know someone whose story deserves to be told? Nominate your Community Champion