Adaptive and Disabled Open Water Swimmers was a Facebook group that I founded at the start of 2021. I was fed up of being the only person with a disability at open water swim events and wanted to find others like me. I created the group at the same time as training to swim Lake Windermere 2 way as a way to try and raise awareness of open water swimmers with disabilities and show what those with disabilities can do if they have the right equipment and support in place. It was only once I started having requests for interviews and writing blogs that I didn’t realise how little information there was for those with disabilities wanting to get into open water swimming. The group grew rapidly and now, at the end of 2022 has 908 members made up of not just those with disabilities but those who are swim buddies, coaches, event organisers. One very key thing joins all the people in the group – the desire for open water swimming to become fully accessible and inclusive.
Its a welcoming, supportive group and gives people somewhere to talk openly about issues they face when open water swimming. It also gives somewhere for coaches and event organisers to ask questions and improve their knowledge so that they can be more inclusive in both coaching and when putting on events.
As a contributor to the Outdoor Swimmer Magazine I often write and highlight issues faced by those with disabilities and the pieces I write are often from suggestions from the group. This ensures what I write stays true to how swimmers with long term health issues and disabilities are facing.
Going forwards I am hoping to turn ADOWS into a Community Interest Company so that I am able to help more people with disabilities.
I hope to ensure there are role models for those starting out the sport, to help improve education so that the sport becomes more welcoming and accepting of those with disabilities and hopefully overtime we will see more people with disabilities participating in outdoor swimming on a regular basis.
If you are interested in helping to spread awareness and improving accessibility in open water swimming please contact us. If you wish to commit to being more inclusive, you can join our Facebook group below and if you are a person with a disability that is facing any kind of issue within open water swimming please use the contact me form at the bottom of the page.