A question I get asked often is: Is it possible to play pickleball if you’re in a wheelchair? The answer is YES! Wheelchair pickleball is growing hastily. One reason for this growth is the fact that anyone can play. In fact, of all ages and skill levels, disabled and non-disabled alike can play together.
Wheelchair pickleball is a game played on a court slightly smaller than a badminton court. The game uses special rules and equipment that allow players in wheelchairs to compete against able-bodied players and other wheelchaired players.
Wheelchair Pickleball Rules:
Wheelchair pickleball is played with the same rules as standing pickleball. Only a few adaptations have been brought for athletes in wheelchairs:
A match is recommended to be played on a larger than normal pickleball court.
The game begins with a serve as expected. After each point, the next serve goes to the opposing side. The only difference is that service is still and the server must not touch any wheel, baseline, or sideline at the time of the strike.
Two bounces Rule:
In this adaptive pickleball format, an athlete in a wheelchair is allowed two bounces of pickleball on his/her side of the net.
Wheelchair plus standing player team Rule:
An athlete in a wheelchair can play the game in singles or doubles. In doubles, disabled athletes can make a team with a standing player.
In a doubles pickleball game, one player is standing and the other player is in a wheelchair. Rules of wheelchair pickleball will be followed by the player in a wheelchair and standard rules will be followed by a standing player.
The wheelchair as a part of body Rule:
The wheelchair is assumed as part of the body of the player. And a player cannot touch/return the ball with part of his body or wheelchair. The same rules will be applied to wheelchairs which are applied to the player’s body.
There are a few additional changes to the rules for wheelchair pickleball matches. Overall game and kitchen zone rules are more relaxed for wheelchair players.
History of Pickleball Wheelchair Tournaments:
Wheelchair pickleball has exploded in the past few years. In 2015, the first-ever Pickleball for All tournament was held in Arizona. This tournament was for players of all ages and skill levels and featured wheelchair divisions. It was a huge success!
That event was so successful that it energized an inclusive wheelchair pickleball tour to commence in 2016. The tour featured 4 events, each of which is hosted by a distinct association or organization. The first event was hosted by Pickleball for All and the second by ParaSport Spokane.
Wheelchair pickleball is not required to be played under any official rules set forth by the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). However, the USAPA has a whole page dedicated to adaptive pickleball play and wheelchair play that provides useful information on this topic.
Wheelchair pickleball players’ disabilities
Wheelchair pickleball players have a variety of disabilities, including loss of limbs, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. Many members of the wheelchair pickleball community also have spinal cord injuries.
Skill level of Wheelchair Pickleball Players
Most wheelchair pickleball players belong to a skill level of less than 3.5.
Though some pro players have skill levels above 3.5 or 4.0, the number of those players is quite small. Most wheelchair players playing in singles and doubles can choose to play along with the same skill level or lower or above their skill levels.
Wheelchair Pickleball Matches and Court rules:
Wheelchair pickleball is an adapted version of the sport of pickleball that allows players who use wheelchairs to compete. It is played in schools, recreation centers, parks, and sports complexes by people of all ages. The sport is played with modified principles and kits to satisfy the needs of players.
Wheelchair Pickleball Association (WPA) has hosted or co-hosted tournaments since 2015.
Wheelchair pickleball is typically played on a basketball-sized court, although some players prefer to play on tennis courts. A wheelchair pickleball court can be made from freshly painted lines or through the use of bright duct tape.
A pickleball net is installed in the center of the court with a maximum height of 34 inches (0.86 m) at the ends and 36 inches (0.91 m) at the center. The court is divided into two sides.
Most WPA members use manual wheelchairs, although some use electric chairs.
Note: Ideally the wheelchair player’s chair must be propelled by hand, not foot, and must not be motorized.
Para pickleball matches:
Wheelchair pickleball allows people in wheelchairs to play competitively with other players in similar circumstances. The sport is quite new, but it is thriving in popularity around the world. It is widespread in Europe, Australia, and other regions as well as in Canada and the United States.
Para pickleball matches and tournaments provide a fair chance of playing to the disabled/specially-abled players in teams and single matches.
Thus adaptive pickleball format allows athletes in wheelchairs to show their skills and abilities.
Adaptive pickleball or Wheelchair pickleball is becoming more and more popular among communities with disabilities. Now matches and tournaments have been arranged by different pickleball associations for wheelchair players and participation is getting higher with time.
Moreover, it’s mentally and physically a good pass time for wheelchair-bound people.
So if you are a wheelchair-bound person or someone in your circle is in such circumstances, take them to a para pickleball court today.