Marni Abbott-Peter, a three time gold medalist in the Paralympics for wheelchair basketball and Let’s Play director for the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society, teaches students how to use sport-oriented wheelchairs. (School District #83 photo)

School District #83 rolls out wheelchairs for physical education

Sport wheelchairs, available for schools to use, help students develop empathy

North Okanagan-Shuswap students will be developing more than their upper bodies through the use of sport wheelchairs in gym class.

Schools within School District #83 now have access to wheelchairs for students to use during PE classes.

In May, Marni Abbott-Peter, a three-time gold medalist in the Paralympics for wheelchair basketball and Let’s Play Director for the BC Wheelchair Basketball Society, visited schools in the North Okanagan-Shuswap. She brought with her a set of sport wheelchairs and taught students how to use them.

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The idea to have a set of sport wheelchairs available full-time within School District #83 came about when Abbott-Peter’s sister, Kira Limber, a teacher at Shuswap Middle School, brought in one of the wheelchairs for her students to try during PE class.

Laura Paiement, SD83’s healthy schools and self-regulation coordinator, saw this and wanted to expand the idea to the district.

Abbott-Peter applied for two grants, one for the chairs and another for the trailer, to take them to and from the various schools in the district.

Paiement says among the positive impacts of having wheelchair games and sports in PE classes is the opportunity for students to develop empathy. Also, having the wheelchairs has increased students’ desire to participate in activities.

“Not everyone feels very confident because they may not be confident in their skills,” Paiement said. “But when everyone is in the wheelchairs we have a level playing field.”

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The students are taught basic wheeling skills through obstacle courses followed by games of tag. From there, various sports are introduced. The children decide what games they would like to play. The popular recess game four square was modified so the kids could play it while in the chairs.


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Students learn to use the district’s new chairs by playing tag. (School District #83 photo)

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