COLIN WOOD, founder and CEO of the World Adaptive Boxing Council (WABC) is adamant he can “break down barriers” to improve inclusivity for blind and wheelchair access players in grassroots sport.
Wood, who volunteers at Newbold-on-Avon Rugby Club, launched WABC in 2013 having previously trained in the sport as well as playing rugby league at a semi-professional level.
However, after Wood was diagnosed with Uveitis (a form of eye inflammation) and told he would eventually lose his sight completely, he turned his attention to improving inclusivity for disabled people in sport.
More specifically, Wood helped create safety equipment for adaptive boxing, including the chair the fighters sit in, and hopes to facilitate two professional disabled rugby teams with a chair that can operate on a grass pitch.
Wood said: “It’s going to break barriers down for all the right reasons, it’s about wheelchair access, we see all these sports played in sports halls.
“I was in the first chair for wheelchair boxing back in 2013 – England Boxing had banned us all from their clubs because I had to show something that was a stepping stone to get to rugby.
“We’ve done that and I started thinking where is the professionalism? In order to prove a point, I had to lead by example and see what the barriers were.
“The conventional wheelchair wheel is null and void – if that was to go on grass it would be like a shovel digging into the grass, it would be stop-start and unrealistic.
“In two weeks, we have the first all-caster that is going to go on a wheelchair specifically to go onto a grass pitch – the magnitude of that means that we’ve got a right of choosing the right team.”
And Wood believes that the chair will help to create a professional tier for disabled teams, with tests set to take place over the summer once the product has been made.
Wood added: “I’m going blind because of the game that I love and as a coach there was a massive barrier there as to why we haven’t got a professional tier for disabled teams playing on the same pitch.
“I showed there was similarities between all sports, the motion is the same no matter what the sport.
“I’m trying to raise awareness to the community and town that disabled people have nothing out there, even when it comes down to mental health.
“This opens up a market for all sports to work together with this tool and encourage and give a choice to people.
“There’s actually going to be two teams, a team of blind people and a wheelchair access team as well.
“We’ve opened up doors with Australia to play them and show that those barriers can be broken, we’ve got eight countries on board including Ghana, USA, Canada and France.”