Date Published: 30th August 2016

For some people living with a physical disability, activities such as dancing and running may pose a significant challenge – or even be completely impossible. However, thanks to some of the latest sports-tech, such activities are now much more accessible.


SubPac – the device for dancers

The SubPac is widely used in the music world to help music producers feel music without damaging their ears.  This device works by transferring low, bass frequencies directly to the wearer’s body, providing the physical dimension to sound.

However choreographer Chris Fonseca uses the device for a different purpose – to teach dance to the hard of hearing.

Dancers at Chris’ classes have a SubPac strapped to their back, so they can feel the beat of the music and therefore learn a choreography much more easily than they could without.

When Fonseca became deaf at a young age he thought his dreams of dancing and choreography were over. He persevered regardless, joining dance classes at the back and allowing his natural ability to shine through.

Knowing not every deaf dancer would be as confident as him without being able to hear the music, Fonesca decided to implement the use of the SubPac in his classes, thus allowing those who cannot hear the music to be able to feel it instead.


Ascot – the running app

Following a life-long genetic degenerative eye condition, at aged 17, ultra-marathon runner Simon Wheatcroft lost his sight entirely.

Wheatcroft says he started running for something to do, either using his guide dog Ascot or other runners for company. In races, such as the New York marathon, he used a human guide – but decided he wanted the opportunity to be able to run solo.

In order to be able to take back in a solo 155-mile ultra-marathon in the Namibian desert, Wheatcroft he turned to IBM Bluemix – the tech giant’s app development arm – to help him create an app to allow blind people to run solo.

The app, which is named eAscot after Wheatcroft’s guide dog, the app uses sensors, similar to car parking sensors, and satellite navigation, to help a runner stay on course. A race is broken down into a series of straight lines, each with its own bearing on a compass. If the runner veers off to the right, the app emits a high-pitched beep that increases in frequency the further away the runner veers. If the runner veers too far left from the course, the app emits a low-pitched beep, that decreases in frequency the further away the runner veers. Silence means the runner is on track.


Paragolfer – the golfing machine

When professional golfer Anthony Netto was paralysed from the waist down after being injured in combat in Iraq, he thought he’d never be able to play golf again.

Knowing it wouldn’t be possible to be able to play golf without being able to stand, Netto invented the Paragolfer – a machine that can elevate the user from a sitting position to a standing position.

The machine was launched this year at Mearns Castle Golf Academy in Glasgow; fifteen years after it’s original invention, and has transformed the lives of many golfers who feared they would never be able to play the sport again.

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