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Showcase Your Sport: Q&A With Cara Centre On Inclusion In Sport


In our new series, ‘Showcase your Sport’, in association with the Irish Federation of Sport, we will be giving you a thorough insight into some of the most fascinating sports we have in Ireland.

In a special edition this week, we are showcasing the work of the Cara Centre who are a national pan-disability sport organisation with the aim of putting disability sport and inclusive physical activity at the heart of our nation.

To tell us more about their work, chairman Jon Morgan answers our questions.


When was CARA established? 

Cara was founded in 2007 through an innovative partnership between the Institute of Technology Tralee and Sport Ireland.  

The Cara Centre was developed because of the success of the Adapted Physical Activity practical programme which was and still is an important element of the Health and Leisure Degree in IT Tralee.  The original thinking for the organisation was to be able to provide a one-stop shop for information, education and support on sport and physical activity for people with disabilities. Cara’s role was to act as an advocate for inclusive provision whilst also supporting national sports policy as well as highlighting and promoting good practice across Ireland and helping to improve delivery standards.



What is the role of CARA? 

Cara is a national pan-disability sport organisation providing a collaborative and partnership platform to increase sport and physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities across Ireland. Our vision is to put disability sport and inclusive physical activity at the heart of our nation’

Cara’s initial focus was to coordinate and support the local sports partnership Sports Inclusion Disability Programme and we are delighted to see how the network has expanded and impact that the initiative is having. The Officers and their local networks are doing a fantastic job! 

Over the last 13 years, Cara’s remit has broadened into a leading role in advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities in sports and physical activity, encouraging a national vision while supporting local provision and building capacity through education and training. Primarily, we work across  5 strands of activity including Sport, Fitness & Leisure, the Outdoors, Health and Education.   

In January 2019, we launched our current strategy which provides a clear focus to guide our work. It outlines a clear commitment to work in collaboration with national and local partners, making active lives possible for people with disabilities while ensuring the voice and needs of people with disabilities are placed at the forefront of all our decisions and actions.

We recognise that for our strategy to be successful we need to continue to work closely with our key stakeholders, founders and partners to enhance the opportunities available to people with disabilities so that they are able to experience the joy and benefits of participating in sport and physical activity in as wide a range of settings as is possible.


How did you first get involved in the organisation?  

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed a career where I have been professionally involved in the development of sport and physical activity for people with disabilities for over 30 years. During that time, I have seen a positive shift in the delivery, take up and public perception of disability sport and whilst the job is not yet done we can be proud of the progress made, particularly in the last decade.

Between 2002 – 17, I was the CEO for Disability Sport Wales and during that time I often had the pleasure of connecting with Cara, whether it be speaking at their conferences or discussing the organisations development and similarities to our own journey in Wales. In early 2018 I was delighted to be approached by Cara to join as an Independent Director and then, later in 2019, I was appointed Chair of the Board.

This appointment was a huge honour, particularly as I was able to follow in the footsteps of Pat Flanagan the former Chair of Cara and one of the founding Directors of Cara. A highly respected advocate and thought leader of disability sport and physical activity in Ireland, Pat had a vision of a country where people with disabilities have equal opportunities to participate in sport and physical activity.  I am privileged to take forward Pat’s vision alongside a progressive Board and a driven, professional, and passionate team under the leadership of our CEO, Niamh Daffy.  


What sporting bodies do you work with? 

We are a pan-disability organisation which means that we provide strategic leadership and support across the different types of disabilities in Ireland including physical, intellectual, sensory, and autism. We work in partnership with a wide range of organisations across several different sectors, including government, sport, fitness and leisure, outdoors, health, and physical education. 

We recently welcomed the publication of the new Programme for Government ‘Our Shared Future’ which highlights the ongoing need to develop a programme of interventions to boost participation levels among people with disabilities and we will work tirelessly to support Government in achieving this aim.

Another key strategic partner is Sport Ireland with whom we enjoy an excellent relationship. We work across many of its departments including the Participation and National Governing Body Units, Sport Ireland Outdoors and Sport Ireland Coaching. 

There are many other partners who are critical to the successful delivery of our vision and without their ongoing support we recognise that our work would be far less impactful. These partners include the National Disability Sport Governing Bodies of Sport  (including Irish Wheelchair Association Sport, Paralympics Ireland, Special Olympics Ireland, Vision Sport, National Council of the Blind, Deaf Sport), the Federation of Irish Sport, the National Governing Bodies of Sport, Ireland Active, the Health Service Executive, Local Sports Partnership Network and the Sports Inclusion Disability Officer Network.

We also have to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the bedrock of community sport, the local sports clubs, and countless volunteers without whom disability sport and inclusive physical activity simply would not happen.

Cara is also grateful for the ongoing commitment and support from our corporate partner Hyundai Ireland who continue to make a huge difference to our operations and activities on the ground and are very much a valued member of our Cara family.  


Do you provide training on inclusiveness?

Cara develops, coordinates, and delivers inclusive training and education workshops across the Sport, Fitness, Adventure and Education sectors. All our workshops are designed to equip participants with the knowledge, competence, confidence and skills necessary to include people with disabilities in sport and physical activity, as well as the building blocks to increase quality provision.

Cara’s Tutor Training Team is exceptional and drawn from a range of relevant organisations representing disability and the sporting and physical activity sector. Each of the tutors bring a wealth of knowledge and practical experience to each workshop and coupled with a genuine enthusiasm and love of what they do, they always deliver an enjoyable learning experience in a friendly atmosphere.

We deliver a broad spectrum of workshops all of which are designed to meet the needs of our partners to enable them to deliver local sport and physical activities in their communities. Workshops include:

– Sport Inclusion and Disability Awareness Workshop

– Disability Inclusion Training

– Inclusive Fitness Training

– Autism in Sport

– Inclusive Adventure Activities

– Accessibility and the Great Outdoors,

– Physical Activity Education Programme (HSE)


What are CARA’s long-term goals? 

Our Strategic Plan 2019 – 2021 sets out our roadmap for achieving a more inclusive landscape for people with disability. It is ambitious and unashamedly challenges ourselves, together with our partners, to continuously raise our collective game as we strive to broaden both the range and quality of inclusive community sport and physical activity opportunities, whilst also ensuring that the voice and needs of people with disabilities are at the core of everything that we do. 

At the heart of our strategy are four strategic goals. These goals are really the ‘engine room’ that together drives our vision and ensures that are programmes and delivery partners thrive.

Goal 1 – Provide strategic Leadership and support in the development and delivery of enhanced opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in sports and physical activity of their choice

Goal 2 – Represent the needs of people with disabilities in relation to their experience in sport and physical activity, while also developing their awareness of the benefits and opportunities to participate

Goal 3 – Enhance the quality of sport and physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities

Goal 4 – Build effective organisation capabilities to enable Cara respond to present and future needs through open, transparent and accountable operations.  


If someone with a disability wants to get involved in sport but doesn’t know where to begin, what can they do? 

In Cara, we believe that people with disabilities should have the opportunity to be active in their own local communities. We would encourage any individual with a disability that is looking for opportunities to take part in sport and physical activity to contact the Sports Inclusion Disability Officer (SIDO) in their county and/or their Local Sports Partnership.  The SIDO or Local Sports Partnerships will tell you more about what opportunities are available in your local area. We have a dedicated Cara staff member who works directly with the local sports partnerships and SIDO’s to help them provide increased, better quality and more inclusive programmes.

If a sports club is looking to provide more inclusive opportunities for their members, then we advise club representatives to contact their National Governing Bodies of Sport.  We work closely with a large number of NGB’s to help them develop more inclusive approaches to the delivery of their sports and also help them to develop a greater understanding of what they need to do to provide increased opportunities for people with disabilities.  Affiliated clubs linked to these NGB’s would then be responsible for providing such information to their members in each local area.


What is the best/most enjoyable part of your role?  

Without a doubt the most enjoyable part of the role is watching the impact that the work of Cara and our partners has on the lives of people with disability. 

As a dad to a son and a daughter, both of whom have a disability, I know the very real impact that sport and activity can have on their lives. Whether it’s watching my daughter in her dance sessions or my son playing basketball I have witnessed first-hand the central role that sport, and activity has had in shaping their lives. 

Reading some of the stories of people in the Cara I‘m in Too’ series only reinforces my own family experience and the clear message that access to sport and physical activity must be a right for everyone and not just a privilege for the few.

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Author: Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. You can contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter