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Blog: 'Gliding has revolutionised my life and I fly as often as I can'

The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) website features a blog post every Friday through the year.

In 2016 we’ll be taking a look at an A-Z of accessible sporting and fitness opportunities available to disabled people. This week it’s G for Gliding, and Steve Derwin discusses how the sport has restored his sense of freedom.

Steve’s blog:

Prior to a road traffic accident in 1989, which left me in a wheelchair, I was an active participant in various outdoor pursuits. I was a keen competitive canoeist and mountaineer and I had climbed in Britain, Europe and the Americas. At the same time, in my professional career I was a Youth and Community Officer with responsibility for outdoor education.

For several months after the accident I felt that my life was completely ruined. Quite simply, I had lost all that I had lived for. 

It was not until a friend introduced me to gliding and pointed out that with the adaptations available in modern gliders there was an opportunity for disabled people to resume active and exciting lives that I realised I could move forwards. 

Flying takes me back to the mountain regions I so loved as a non-disabled person and gives me the freedom of exploration.

Walking on Air video

I learned to glide at the Wolds Gliding Club in 1998 and later continued my training in Scotland at Walking on Air, an organisation which provides gliding for disabled people at the Scottish Gliding Centre. The flying, on local hills the Bishop or Benarty, is splendid.

With the support of an excellent instructor team and good coaching I have been privileged to fly many cross-countries – I own and fly a glider with which I have flown in France, Spain and Switzerland, which were all fantastic experiences. 

Until recently I was a British Gliding Association (BGA) instructor and it has given me great satisfaction and pleasure to fly with enthusiastic students at Portmoak, at Eden Soaring, at Husbands Bosworth and at Gruyere Aero Club in Switzerland. 

Gliding has revolutionised my life and I fly as often as I can. However, in the past year I have had medical problems which have limited my flying and caused me to withdraw from instructing.

This year I intend to make a strong return to gliding as in the past it has restored my purpose in life, and I know it will again.

It is my greatest wish to afford the opportunity of flying to other disabled people through the BGA and through Walking on Air.

The British Gliding Association is the governing body for the sport of gliding in the UK. Walking on Air is a Scottish charity enabling people with disabilities glide, by utilising facilities at the Scottish Gliding Centre.