Snooker, rounders and badminton are reinvented for people with complex disabilities

People with complex disabilities will be able to meaningfully play snooker, rounders and badminton for the first time ever, thanks to a charity reinventing the traditional sports.

Sense, the national disability charity, has created three new versions of sports – sensory snooker, sensory rounders and sensory badminton – after consulting with disabled people they support on the activities they most wanted to play but were unable to take part in.

Working closely with the sports’ three governing bodies, the charity which supports people with complex disabilities, created simpler versions of each game. Sense first identified the key skills required for the traditional sport, then designed activities to help people achieve the same goals in a more accessible way.

Ideas were honed over an intensive six-month period, including recreating a snooker table on the floor with a felt mat or potting the balls by hand; throwing objects overarm and underarm to mirror badminton shots; using a small bat to hit a ball balanced on a stand in rounders. Each sensory sport can be adjusted to suit the skills and abilities of individual players, so everyone can get involved.

Now Sense will invest £60,000 over the next three years to launch sessions for hundreds of disabled people across England, alongside Badminton England, Rounders England and The World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association, with the first groups swinging into action this April.

It is hoped the three new sensory sports will appeal to a broad range of players, encouraging them to enjoy being active and socialising. Recent Sense research found over half (53%) of people with complex disabilities felt lonely*, compared to 25% of the general public**.

The groundbreaking scheme is being funded by a £2.2million grant that Sense was awarded by Sport England in April 2023 to tackle “inactivity” among people with complex disabilities. The aim is to encourage 5,000 more people into sport by 2027.

Alissa Ayling, Head of Sense Active, said:

“The three all-new sensory sports we’ve developed offer a nice range of activities for players to choose from. Badminton is a more traditional sport, snooker is a sociable activity that can typically be more difficult for people with complex disabilities to understand and play, while rounders can be combined with a picnic on a fun day out.
We hope the new versions of these sports will encourage hundreds more people with complex disabilities to become more physically active and less lonely. At Sense, we want to ensure that everyone has the chance to engage meaningfully in any sport – and this is a huge leap in that direction.”

Bob Hill, Club and Facilities Manager at World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association (WPBSA) said:

“The experience of playing snooker is multi-sensory, uplifting and good for physical, mental and social health. We feel strongly that those benefits should be available to everyone and we are committed to making adaptations wherever necessary to create the right conditions for each player to take part, have a challenge and gain a sense of achievement.

Working with Sense allows our sport to tap into the expertise of dedicated and creative people who understand how to innovate to make a sport appeal to people with complex disabilities. We hope many people Sense supports will develop a passion for snooker through this new initiative.”

Sian Barnett, Workforce Manager at Rounders England, said:

“Ensuring that rounders is a truly inclusive sport means that we must be flexible and provide new adaptations so everyone can take part.
It’s fantastic to be working with an organisation such as Sense, who will provide expertise and knowledge so we can create new resources to allow individuals with complex disabilities to enjoy our sport. Together, we will support coaches and volunteers to deliver these exciting new sessions.”

Leanne Brown, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Manager at Badminton England, said:

“Badminton England is committed to making our sport the most inclusive and accessible sport in England.
Our partnership with Sense to develop Sensory Badminton will allow more disabled people to get involved in our sport. Working collaboratively, we will upskill our workforce to deliver inclusively through education and training to create welcoming and accessible environments for people with complex disabilities.
Our sport is for everyone, so we are excited to see people with complex disabilities enjoy badminton!”

Article by Julia Rice: