Local Catholic school board to launch accessible sport ‘Boccia’

Students at St. Joseph Catholic School in Belleville participating in Boccia. Photo via ALCDSB.

The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB) is launching an accessible Paralympic sport, Boccia, at multiple schools in Kingston and Belleville.

Boccia is a Paralympic sport that can be played by anyone, with or without a disability — there are no limits on age, gender, or ability. The school board explained that Boccia is a target sport, similar to curling or lawn bowling; like the similarly-named bocce, boccia derives its name from the Italian word for ‘bowl.’ From a seated position, players propel boccia balls in an attempt to land closest to a white marker ball called “the jack.” If a player can’t throw the ball, they can roll it or kick it. If a player cannot roll the ball or hit it with the foot, they can use a ramp. If they cannot release the ball with the hand, they can use the head or a hand pointer.

According to a media release from the board, ALCDSB was the recipient of the 2023/2024 Removing Barriers for Students with Disabilities Grant, and with these funds, the Board is in the process of purchasing Boccia equipment for all of its schools. Funds will also go to planning events, such as a Boccia tournament, during National Accessibility Week (May 26 to June 1, 2024).

“Sport and being a part of a team or a club is something that benefits all students. Not only does it provide a sense of belonging, but it is also opportunity for personal growth, friendship and fun,” said Kristen Whalen, a parent of a St. Joseph Catholic School student and a member of the ALCDSB Accessibility Committee. “How wonderful that barriers to participation are being dismantled and opportunities for inclusion are being brought to the forefront! “

“We are so thankful to [Occupational Therapist] Stephanie Lackey for applying for the ‘Removing Barriers for Students with Disabilities’ grant, and the commitment of ALCDSB in prioritizing accessibility and inclusion in all aspects of school life. It has been amazing to see the response and leadership being shown here at St. Joseph Catholic School through Kim Naylor’s Grade 8 class in growing the sport of Boccia within our school community! Can’t wait to see how it takes off with the rest of the Board,” said Whalen.

“Whalen is a huge driving force behind this given her knowledge of Boccia, the local Boccia community, and passion for inclusive sport, as well as her position as a parent, teacher, and Accessibility Committee Member,” noted Stephanie Lackey, Occupational Therapist with ALCDSB. “She had brought forth the idea of accessible sport as a potential focus for Accessibility Week this year and suggested introducing Boccia. We are thankful for her dedication and vision for accessibility in ALCDSB.”

The board noted that the purpose of the Removing Barriers for Students with Disabilities funding is to provide school boards with opportunities to:

  • Remove barriers for individuals with disabilities (e.g., students, educators, parents), and promote and support accessible, inclusive, and equitable education practices both inside and outside of the classroom;
  • Educate students, educators, parents/guardians and the broader school community about disabilities, and services and supports for students with disabilities;
  • Empower individuals with disabilities to participate in accessible and inclusive initiatives together;
  • Empower students to play a leadership/allyship role in promoting inclusive, barrier-free school environments;
  • Raise awareness about the value and benefits of accessibility and inclusion; and
  • Prevent and remove the unique barriers faced by students whose disabilities intersect with differing identities, including race, culture

According to the release, Boccia is taking place at multiple schools in the board on Tuesday, Mar. 5, 2024, and will be incorporated into planning for Accessibility Week. ALCDSB said that next year, the vision will be to expand Boccia into more schools, which includes equipment loan and trial process, intramurals and potentially student teams and competitions.

“Accessibility is a priority in ALCDSB and it is exciting to incorporate this focus into school sports,” said Michele McGrath, Superintendent of Education.

“We are blessed to have community partners that support this initiative.”

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