Fishing for the disabled
Most disabilities do not prevent people from fishing. There are aids and equipment that enable even the most severely disabled person to participate very successfully
Of course, barriers do exist and these chiefly arise from the difficulties of physically accessing the water, such as loch or river. However, a wide variety of accessible game and coarse fishing is available and the situation continually improves as more and more fishery managers and riparian owners accommodate the needs of disabled anglers.
Piers and jetties can provide accessible shore (sea) fishing while some charter boats have wheelchair access.
There are a number of organisations that promote angling for disabled people and encourage fisheries to provide suitable access and facilities.
Disabled anglers with mobility limitations will experience the greatest difficulties with access. The nature of the environment means that many rivers and lochs are out of bounds. However, the disabled angler can do a lot to improve his ability to reach the water. Off-road and all-terrain wheelchairs and scooters are becoming increasingly popular and provide their users with a remarkable degree of performance over rough ground.
Fisheries also need to consider providing access to the water for disabled anglers, especially as the Disability Discrimination Act is now fully in force. 'Service providers' (which include commercial fisheries and clubs open to all) are now compelled to 'alter, adapt or remove' physical barriers to access. They have two options - improve bank access, for example by installing level paths and fishing platforms, or provide an accessible boat, such as the Wheelyboat. The advantage of the Wheelyboat is that it provides access to the entire water with only one access point needed on the bank.
Lists of accessible fisheries
are provided, including those with Wheelyboats. However, anglers' needs vary and it is a good idea to contact the fishery first. These lists are only a guide and making your own enquiries can often produce positive results. Some fisheries may not have specific facilities and may not be listed here, but nonetheless will be able to cater for your particular needs.
Aids and equipment
These can range from a simple extension to a landing net to reach the water to hand-built specialist aids for amputees. Much of the equipment that will help disabled anglers can be bought off the shelf. For example, longer than standard rods may be beneficial where fishing from a high bank is the only option, or shorter and lighter rods will help people with arthritis, poor grip or weakness in the arm. Also, rods can be built with custom handles to aid poor grip. A lever wind reel (the Vivarelli) can also be advantageous
Athough disabled anglers will often be able to adapt tackle to suit their own needs, specialist aids, such as those built by Robert Gibson Bevan, are available. Robert builds equipment that enables anglers to fish independently with the use of only one arm. The British Disabled Angling Association produces a booklet of similarly specialised equipment.