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Making Aussie Rules Inclusive and Accessible For All

Ensuring all Aussies with disability can participate in our beloved game.

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Carer Solutions AFL All Abilities article

Making Aussie Rules Inclusive and Accessible For All

Whether you call it AFL, Australian Rules football, Aussie Rules, or simply footy, it is our native sport that has been played for over 150 years.

While there are over 1.38 million Australians who play the game, only 20,000 people with disability do – and we’d love to see many more get involved!

That’s why at Carer Solutions, we think the AFL’s Disability Inclusion programs are so great. This fantastic initiative has four programs that have been set up to ensure Australians with disability have the opportunity to participate in our beloved sport. The programs include AllPlay Footy, National Inclusion Carnival, Wheelchair Aussies Rules, and AFL Blind.

With the 2022 AFL Season now well-and-truly underway, we spoke to Tim Nield, AFL’s Disability Inclusion Manager about what he and his team have planned for the months and seasons ahead.

Tim works on creating opportunities and pathways to get people of all abilities involved in the game, “You can play to be the best, but we want people to play for fun!” he says.

It’s all about adapting the game to include more children with various skill levels and abilities and AllPlay Footy is a key to this.

AllPlay Footy was established to create and inclusive space for all kids to play sport, and to bring the community together through innovations in thinking about how to support them to reach their full potential.

The AFL utilise this initiative to develop and evolve AFL All Abilities including offering courses for coaches who may have someone with special needs in their team.

“A coach may have someone with autism in their team, and they may not know how to support and train that player; we offer courses to help staff learn how to accommodate these different needs.” Tim explains.

The National Inclusion Carnival is also something Tim is really excited about. The annual Carnival was established for athletes with an intellectual disability and is an awesome opportunity to showcase the abilities of footballers with an intellectual disability, while also giving players an opportunity to develop their independence and a sense of belonging in their community.

“Football is almost secondary in the Inclusion Carnival,” says Tim, “it’s all about supporting the team, building relationships and shared opportunities. For a lot of the boys, it is their first time away from home, staying in a hotel and managing by themselves and we’re there for them. It’s great to see their independence grow.”

Wheelchair Aussies Rules and AFL Blind both offer cool adaptations of the traditional game ensuring it’s fun and accessible for everyone. Wheelchair Aussies Rules is played on a basketball court with goal posts at each end and involves teams of five facing off against each other. AFL Blind empowers people with blindness or low vision, to play footy through clever modifications to the equipment and rules.

At its heart, the AFL’s Disability Inclusion programs are simply about making footy accessible and inclusive for everyone who wants to play – and we can’t wait to watch this awesome program develop with each footy season.

So, if you or a family member would like to get involved, or perhaps you would like to volunteer at your local club, go to the Community AFL website to find out more.