The National Sports Centre (NSC) has something for everyone in society, including those with disabilities, recovering from illness and injury and seeking to socialise and find new hobbies.
If you haven’t visited for a while, you are welcome to look around and see all that’s on offer.
That is the message from Geoff Corkish MBE MLC, chairman of Tynwald’s Advisory Council for Disabilities, and from David Gawne MBE, chairman of the Isle of Man Live at Home Schemes and Leonard Cheshire Disability.
The message is in line with the Programme for Government, which aims to get ‘more people more active more often’ with the resulting health and social benefits.
In terms of access to the NSC, there is disabled parking, ramps front and back for those who can’t manage steps and, at reception, a hearing loop for customers with hearing difficulties.
In the swimming pool, there are dedicated disability-friendly changing and shower facilities and a hoist into the pool.
Those with disabilities can access the NSC’s outdoor facilities such as the athletics track and the all-weather pitch. These facilities’ changing rooms have dedicated shower and toilet facilities for customers with disabilities.
The NSC was badly damaged when wide-scale flooding affected the Island in December 2015.
In carrying out refurbishments, the Department of Education and Children has ensured the 20-year-old venue is even better equipped for disabled visitors.
There is improved access to changing facilities in the sports hall area and new, disabled-friendly showers. There’s easier access to the bowls hall, and onto the bowling green itself, for wheelchair users.
There are a wide range of programmes and sessions for adults and children with disabilities and for those taking their first steps into or returning to an active lifestyle.
The Strategy for Sport 2014-2024 pledges to make sport more accessible to those with disabilities.
Mr Corkish – a member of the Department of Education and Children – said:
‘People may assume the NSC is only for those who have a certain level of fitness and/or mobility.
‘In fact, the centre offers plenty for those who are returning to fitness or who have disabilities and we would welcome anyone who hasn’t visited to take a look around our improved facilities and find something to suit them.’
Another key objective of the Strategy for Sport is promoting social inclusion.
Mr Gawne said use of the NSC would assist those wishing to socialise for a few hours a week.
He said he was impressed by the refurbishment works, the ambiance of the centre and the wide range of activities on offer, which embrace all ages and abilities.
‘Isolation and loneliness is a big issue facing the Island and not just among the elderly but people of all ages,’ he said.
‘If not addressed, this will have significant implications for the economy and for health and social care.
‘Socialising and having focal points improves individuals’ health and well-being, gives them a better quality of life and is aligned to Government and the third sector’s commitment to community-based care.’
Mr Gawne added.
‘Equally, there are people of differing abilities of all ages living within the community whose lives could be positively impacted upon by the NSC activities and exercises which can be tailored to their needs as part of an integrated care programme.’
The NSC is open from 7am to 10pm on weekdays and 9am to 8pm on weekends and bank holidays. It has a café that is open daily from 8.30am to 8pm and is a popular meeting place.
Photo: Mr Corkish MBE MLC, Mr Gawne MBE, Carl Glover, General Manager: Sports Facilities of the NSC, and Ari Brooks, Disability Sports Development Officer, demonstrating how those with disabilities can more easily access the facilities and showing chairs used for wheelchair basketball, one of many sports offered.