Whitby’s Abilities Centre to host Ontario Parasport Games opening ceremonies


Published February 3, 2023 at 8:57 am

More than 300 athletes of varying abilities and unquestioned determination will be running, riding and rolling – not to mention skiing, sliding, climbing and throwing – into our hearts this weekend for the 2023 Ontario Parasport Games.

Four years after they successfully hosted the Ontario Parasport Games in 2019 the Region of Durham has once again been tapped to run the event, with 11 sport competitions (plus four demonstration sports) at eight venues with the opening ceremony tonight at the Abilities Centre in Whitby.

Sledge Hockey, one of the most popular parasports, gets underway this morning at the Iroquois Park Sports Centre in Whitby.

The impact to the local economy of the three-day competition is expected to be between $500,000 and $1 million.

Sport Durham, the Region of Durham’s sport tourism program, will work closely with the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and community volunteers to form the Games’ Organizing Committee.

The 2019 Ontario Parasport Games brought in approximately $678,000 in local economic impact and produced a legacy fund of $112,000 that is being used to increase adaptive sport opportunities and participation in Durham. The 2019 Games were recognized with several national and provincial awards.

“The Games generate lasting positive impacts for our community,” Co-Chair Don Terry, who has chaired Sport Durham since 2013 and was co-chair of the 2019 competition and of this year’s event, said last year when the host site was announced. Legacy funds from 2019, he noted, are retrofitting a rink fully accessible for sledge hockey, removing family financial barriers so children with disabilities can enjoy sport and delivering a Parasport School Grow it Program and more, he added.

“I’m proud of our community’s long history of inclusion with accessible facilities & organizations like the Abilities Centre, Grandview Kids and Windreach Farms. Hosting these Games will further raise awareness of the value of inclusion and seeing first-hand all that people can do.”

The Region has also hosted 2015 Pan Am Games events (Boxing and Weightlifting in Oshawa; Baseball and Softball in Ajax); the 2000 Ontario Summer Games; the Ontario 55+ Summer Games in 2010; and the Ontario Parasport Games back in 1979.

Events at this weekend’s competition include:

  • 5-a-side soccer is played by athletes with a visual impairment. The game is played on a smaller pitch than able-bodied soccer and the pitch is enclosed by boards similar to what you would expect for hockey. The game is very loud as coaches and sighted goalkeepers shout instructions, players verbally communicate, and the ball makes noise.
  • Boccia is a co-ed sport, generally played by athletes with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy or related neurological conditions. It is similar to lawn bowling, but is played indoors on a court about the size of a badminton court and lasts six ends.
  • Goalball is a sport specifically designed for athletes with a visual impairment; you will not find an able-bodied counterpart. Teams of three play on a volleyball-size court; alternating throwing/bowling a ball with bells inside of it along the floor. The idea is to score on the opponent’s net, which is nine metres wide. Players do not leave their half of the court, but the game moves very quickly as thrown balls can reach speeds of up to 80 km/hour.
  • Para-Alpine encompasses athletes with varying physical abilities. Athletes compete in three categories: standing, sitting or visually impaired in the same disciplines as able-bodied skiers. Certain adaptations are used to make the sport accessible to its athletes. Some of the most common adaptations that are used are special equipment (sit-skis, outrigger skis, etc.) and a guide.
  • Para-Nordic encompasses athletes with varying physical abilities. Athletes compete in three categories: standing, sitting or visually impaired. Certain adaptations are used to make the sport accessible to its athletes. Some of the most common adaptations that are used are sit-skis and the use of a guide.
  • Sitting volleyball was designed for athletes with a physical disability. Athletes play on a lower net and a smaller court, with rules very similar standing volleyball. Players can move around during play but must remain seated.

  • Sledge hockey is an adapted version of ice hockey for athletes with a physical disability. Players use a two-bladed sledge and propel themselves with short sticks spiked at one end. The other end includes curved blades for handling the puck. Rules and gameplay are very similar to able-bodied ice hockey.
  • Visually impaired curling is conducted in the same manner as able-bodied curling, except for the addition of a guide. The guide is on the ice with the curlers and assists the thrower in aiming for the skip’s broom. The guide will usually position themselves in the house closest to the thrower and helps each curler to the level needed given their visual ability.
  • Wheelchair curling is co-ed and played in the same manner as able-bodied curling. The adaptations made to the game are that athletes throw the rocks from their chair using a delivery stick and there is no sweeping.
  • Wheelchair basketball can be played by athletes with varying physical ability. The basic rules of wheelchair basketball are similar to able-bodied basketball. The court dimensions, basket height, and distance to the foul and three-point lines are the same.
  • Wheelchair tennis, just like its able-bodied counterpart, requires power, speed, finesse, precision, and strategy. Aside from the sport wheelchair, no specialized tennis equipment is required to play wheelchair tennis (a standard racquet and tennis ball are used). A sport wheelchair gives players greater mobility, balance and speed than an everyday chair. Wheelchair tennis is played on a standard court and follows the same rules as the stand-up game, except that players are allowed a second bounce before hitting a return.
  • The four demonstration sports this year include Adapted climbing, or Para climbing, where specialized strategies and equipment are used to support climbers who may experience physical barriers in the climbing world. By working closely with each climber, the climbing facility, instructors and guides, a safe and valuable climbing experience is created. This is done by understanding needs, abilities, medical concerns, and goals. Para climbing is a competitive sport with different classifications for athletes with disabilities.
  • In Para Equestrian, riders compete in 11 dressage events. There are five disability categories for both the individual championship test and individual freestyle test and there is one team test. Competition is mixed gender and open to athletes with visual and physical disabilities. Riders are judged on their ability to perform various patterns, which include changes in pace and direction.
  • Floor Curling is curling without ice. Target mats and stones on bearings are used to provide a curling experience that is accessible to all. Stones can be delivered from floor level by hand or by using a pusher stick for participants who cannot or prefer not to bend to floor level. The sport is offered as an all-ages, mixed abilities sport.
  • Power hockey is a parasport for individuals with physical disabilities that use a power wheelchair. The sport is inclusive by nature, allowing para-athletes of varying disabilities to participate together, regardless of gender or age. The rules of Powerhockey in North America are similar to that of ice hockey. There are slight differences in order to adapt it such as the inclusion of penalties like Dangerous Driving and Tipping.

Durham Region has partnered with AccessNow on an accessibility mapping app to increase inclusion confidence for residents and visitors to the 2023 Ontario Parasport Games.

AccessNow is a free app available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. It allows users to discover accessible and non-accessible pinned locations in 35 countries around the world. Residents and visitors can also search, rate and discover municipal facilities, local restaurants, hotels, shops and attractions on the app.

“As a wheelchair user, AccessNow can help give me confidence that I can access and enjoy restaurants, businesses, and recreational facilities with my family and friends. I’m proud our community is taking leadership in accessible mapping,” said Games Co-Chair Mike Frogley.

All Games venues have been added to the app.

The Games have also collaborated with public libraries in Ajax, Clarington, Oshawa, Pickering, and Whitby to provide Sensory Support Kits that are available for loan.

The sensory kits contain an assortment of items designed to reduce stress and anxiety, stimulate learning, and provide comfort in unfamiliar environments. Developed by Autism Canada, the kits contain several tools, as well as an information pamphlet on how to support individuals experiencing a sensory shutdown.

Legendary CBC broadcaster and former paralympian Rob Snoek will be the emcee and will host Friday evening’s opening ceremonies. Snoek, whose leg was amputated at age one, competed in three summer Paralympics (’92, ’96 and 2000) before joining the CBC in 2002. He was a Canadian Sscreen Award nominee (best play-by-play) for his work at the 2022 Olympic Games,

Spectators are encouraged to ‘Be the Roar’ and to bring non-perishable food donations in lieu of admission fees.

‘Be the Roar’


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