Different Disabilities And Learning

Swimming is a safe activity for people with disabilities but here are a few specific tips to help ensure you fully enjoy your experience in the pool.

Look out for the dark blue Disability Access wheelchair symbol on our Pool Finder. This will show you the pool has disability accessThere should be no limitation to those who have a physical disability, special educational needs or other functional or learning impairment to enjoying taking part in swimming.

However, there are some common sense principles which should be considered in advance to ensure your safety.

For example, make sure there are adequate access facilities at the pool if the use of hoists, ramps and dedicated changing facilities are needed.

A few words of advice

We will not attempt to list every type of disability or impairment here, but here are some general disability specific observations and tips.

  • Autistic spectrum - the sensory element of the water has been shown to stimulate interaction and communication skills. It also helps with balance, coordination and learning to follow instructions. Breaking skills down into small parts and the use of visual aids may help in learn to swim lessons with understanding the sequencing of what actions are required.
  • General learning disabilities - learners can be helped by using continual repetition in a variety of ways to achieve the same ends. Use accurate demonstration, pictures and basic signing to reinforce verbal instructions. 
  • Epilepsy - worries about a seizure occurring during the swimming session can be avoided by having a knowledgeable spotter on poolside. Learners with epilepsy should ensure they have a spotter with them.
  • Visual impairment - learners may need to be guided around the facility to orientate themselves. The use of manual demonstrations and the use of music, originating from the same place, would also help with orientation.
  • Hearing impairments - use of photos or pictures may help and some deaf swimmers can pick up rhythm (e.g. of a drum) to help with timing.
  • Amputees - ensure depth of water is adequate to avoid abrasions from the bottom of the pool
  • For comprehensive advice read the ASA's Inclusion of Swimmers With A Disabilty.

Further resources

  • Deaf Friendly Swimming, a guide for parents and teachers produced by the National Deaf Childrens Society (NDCS) in association with the ASA.
  • In our British Swimming zone you'll find useful links to a range of disability organisations' websites.