Hoist the sails. If you’ve ever wanted to brave the seas, Sailability is a program dedicated to providing people living with disability the ultimate freedom on the water.


Judith was born with cerebral palsy. With limited control of her limbs, she uses a ‘headpointer’ to operate a computer and an electric wheelchair for mobility. However, at 53 years old, she’s made sure the words “you shouldn’t… or cannot possibly do that” have never entered her vocabulary. 


Every second Saturday, Judith is a solo sailor at Manly, Sydney. In a testimonial, she says that with Sailability she has found “fun and friendship, not only with sailors with disabilities, but also with the numerous volunteers. Without their support and encouragement, I would be sitting on land, in my wheelchair, thinking about what I would like to be doing… rather than participating and knowing what I can do.”


It’s this ethos that drives Sailability. Started in the UK in the 1980s, Sailability is a non-profit dedicated to making sure that no person is ever denied the opportunity to sail. Now it operates in over 50 locations around Australia. Sailors in these clubs have seen success on the local, national and international level, with some even going on to sail in the Paralympics. 


At each sailing club, a variety of on-water crafts are provided for sailors that suit local conditions and also their individual needs. It’s run by passionate volunteers, with most clubs catering for recreation, therapeutic and competitive activities, as well as entry level sailing right through to elite World Championships. 


But you don’t have to be at elite level to feel the benefits of sailing. In fact, several studies have shown that for people living with disability, sailing can: 

  • Increase muscle strength and endurance.
  • Boost mental wellness.
  • Decrease stress levels.
  • Enhance concentration and spatial awareness.
  • Provide self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Increase social development. 


Many participants report feeling a more positive outlook on life after sailing, not just from the calming effects of Australia’s sky-blue water, but from the exhilaration, adventure and empowerment they find in Sailability. 


“I love the feeling of freedom I get when I’m out on the water,” says Elana, who has spina bifida. “It’s almost as if you can go anywhere and sail forever. Being on the water on a sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky and sparkling blue water, is one of the closest things to paradise on earth.”


If you’re interested in joining a new activity in your area, contact your local Just Better Care. We can assist with travel and transport, as well as community participation. Sailing here we come! You can find your local office at justbettercare.com/getting-started.