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  • MattSkelhon1Matt Skelhon shot to fame when he grabbed gold at the Bejiing Paralympic Games and proved it was no fluke by claiming silver and bronze at London 2012.

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  • michaelwhapples1Michael Whapples from Leicestershire is blind and shoots air rifle.  In 2011 he was the first British shooter ever to compete at the Open European Shooting Championships for the Vision Impaired, held at Nitra, Slovakia. 

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  • peterbreheny1Peter Breheny from Derbyshire shoots benchrest rifle.  He has Kennedy's Disease, a progressive wasting condition that has weakened his limbs. 
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  • vicmorris1Vic Morris lives in south Wales and is paralysed from the neck down as the result of an accident.  With the aid of an 'equaliser' device invented by his coach, John Kelman, Vic shoots pistol and rifle. 
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  • Di CoatesDeanna (Di) Coates lives in Hampshire, shoots air rifle from a wheelchair, and is one of our most successful disabled international athletes. 
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  • scoutwithprosthesis1This young Scout was born without a left hand.  When he took an interest in shooting, which is very popular in the Scout movement, Hampshire Scouts helped his local club to find a solution. 
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  • stewartnangle1Stewart Nangle, a Lancastrian, is pictured shooting .22 pistol.  What the photograph does not show is that at the time one of his legs was fitted with a metal frame that was bolted into the bones. 
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Thursday, 14th June 2012

This week I heard the sad tale of a situation that I hadn’t previously come across in four years of involvement with disabled shooting.  It came from a club that can only shoot .22 rifle in the prone position, but also has an airgun range.  For safety reasons there’s a strict limit on the height of rifle barrels from the ground on the .22 range, which is constructed in such a way as to prevent shooting at a greater height. 

The club was visited by a disabled person in a large electric wheelchair who said that they wished to have a go at target shooting; specifically .22 target shooting.  The club explained that as this person couldn’t get on the ground to shoot prone, and they couldn’t shoot from their wheelchair because of the safety restriction, unfortunately this wasn’t possible.  Also, access to parts of the .22 range would be extremely difficult for such a large wheelchair. 

Not wishing to send their visitor away disappointed, the members suggested trying airgun instead; but no, .22 was insisted upon.  There was an offer to make arrangements with another club in the area that was fully accessible, and on whose range this person would be able to shoot .22.  This was rejected; only the most local facility would do. 

Despite the fact that the club was doing everything it could to help this person into the sport, the visitor adopted an “I know my rights” attitude and made things very unpleasant for the would-be helpers, saying that the club was required by law to be fully accessible, so it must make alterations to its facilities to allow this person to participate.  A new concrete path ought to be laid to allow full access to the .22 range, and the range itself would have to be altered to allow safe shooting from higher positions. 

Naturally, the committee sought some guidance on whether this person could actually take steps to force it to carry out such works.  In any event, the club simply couldn’t afford such works, so this might mean it would have to close down, depriving all the existing members of a much-valued activity. 

The true position is that a private members club is not obliged to make all its facilities fully accessible, because its premises aren’t open to the general public, but provided for the use of its own members.  Also, it isn’t obliged to accept as a member someone who is clearly going to be a constant thorn in the flesh of the existing members. 

Fortunately, the club has taken out the legal expenses option on its NSRA affiliation, so if the visitor attempts to take matters further, the cost of engaging a solicitor to fend them off will be covered. 

The really sad thing about all this is the effect that the incident could have on a club in this position.  Even the kindest human nature might hesitate before allowing another disabled visitor over the threshold after every attempt to help has been so uncompromisingly rejected, and such unjustifiable demands made.  Instead of improving accessibility this person’s behaviour might foster prejudice. 

PS: The title of this piece comes from The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley - a very moral tale from my childhood!

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