Rowing, as a sport, has aimed to be fully inclusive since the early days of adaptive rowing in 2003. At international level, the Rowing World Championships runs events for para-rowing (Paralympic) boat classes as well as races for Olympic and non-Olympic boat classes. As this area of the sport has grown on a domestic level, local events have followed the same path, offering rowability events within their traditional programs.

The same is also true of indoor rowing and it is a stated aim of the School Games to be as inclusive as possible. British Rowing has established Gold Medal Times which enable young participants with mixed ability to take part. Using this system of classification, events have many extra layers of competition; similar ability levels can race against each other, and other groups, including able-bodied participants, and across gender and age groups.

Indoor rowing manufacturers offer a range of adaptations to suit a wide range of disabilities for indoor rowing.

Rowability Competition Structure
It is suggested:

  1. The children take part in a seeded race for 1 minute, prior to the competition.
  2. The children with the closest scores are grouped together.
  3. The groups then race over various times/distances according to their year.
  4. School Year Time/Distance GMT Boys GMT Girls
    Year 7 1 min 255M 245M
    Year 8 1 min 30 405m 375m
    Year 9 2 min 565m 510m
    Year 10 2 min 30 717m 640m
    Year 11 3 min 860m 770m
    Year 12/13 1000m 3 min 30 3 min 55
  5. The GMT (Gold Medal Time) is worked out

Considerations for rowers who are visually impaired:

  • Try to use analogies where possible - compare motion with something else in every day life that is similar. For example, the movement of a conveyor belt for the handle movement on the rowing machine.
  • Utilise kinesthetic learning, how things feel rather than how it looks. Try to coach in a less visual way, i.e. hand movements and gesturing cannot be relied upon.
  • Use other senses such as sound, hearing for the catch and the finish; how should the rowing machine sound through the drive and recovery?
  • Concept2 has two software programs (ErgChatter and ErgBuddy) available for rowers with visual impairments to give feedback on what the monitor is showing (see Concept2 website).

Considerations for rowers with physical disabilities:

  • It is advised that the damper level is set to a minimum.
  • Tetra mitts or Active Hands can be used for those with limited hand function.
  • Postural support systems are available for those with cerebral palsy, Down's Syndrome, spinal cord injuries and other physical disabilities. Seating systems can be used to provide full support or lumbar support and sitting balance; additional items can be placed on the seat to help with postural alignment and pelvic tilt.
  • As with any physical activity it should be ascertained what the young person's functional ability is.
  • The rowing machine can be used by amputees, and rowers with trunk and arms or arms and shoulders functionality.

The following resources provide further information: