“What if the tables were turned?”

I borrowed this title from Joan’s Facebook post. Joan’s a visually impaired athlete and the top scorer for the women’s national Goalball team. She was reflecting on a 1 v 3 modified Goalball game where she competed and won against three sighted athletes. This happened just before the circuit breaker.

She was pondering about who would be considered “disabled” should the tables be turned – in a context where the sighted athletes had to operate in a “blind” environment instead. You can read about her thoughts and watch the game here. While you are at it, do send her a friend request!

“Is disability a result of one’s condition, or the result of the physical and social environment?”

I thought that Joan’s sharing connected really strongly with the Social Model of Disability and there is an important message here to be shared with my fellow coaches and the public.

What is the Social Model of Disability (SMD)?

The SMD views disability as a relational concept, specifically, the amount of actual disability experienced by a person, will depend on the nature of the environment which the person lives in. The environment can either facilitate or restrict one’s functional activities.

For example, a social environment where public spaces can be accessed by ramps and tactile indicators, and where the general public has a good understanding about how to interact with Persons with Disabilities (PwDs), will be considered enabling rather than disabling.

“From perspective of the social model of disability, disability is not so much a medical problem as it is a socially contrived one. Society has created an environment for individuals with disabilities filled with both physical and attitudinal barriers.”

People with Disability Australia (PWDA), 2018. ‘Social Model of Disability’. Retrieved from https://pwd.org.au/resources/disability-info/social-model-of-disability/

In contrast to the SMD, the more deterministic medical model of disability does not differentiate between pathology and disability. It also excludes the consideration of the environment.

What do you think is the dominant perception of disability here in Singapore? Does it lean towards the social or medical model? More specifically, do we perceive that the negative effects of disability are due to an individual’s condition rather than environmental factors?

A Reflective Tool…

I am not proposing that the SMD is more relevant than the MMD. The SMD does have it’s own shortcomings. For example, it does not address the evident reality of illness, bodily pain and dysfunction that prevents PwDs from not only taking part in sport, but to find a job too (Martin, 2013). I do think that the SMD is a particularly useful reflective tool to help identify the barriers and constraints that both athletes with impairments and disability sport coaches face, and how we can overcome them.

Research points to disability sports coaches having to manage numerous constraints such as limited financial support, support staff and a much smaller talent pool (Taylor et al. 2014). In addition, the coach often has to communicate more often with the athlete’s families, caregivers and social support workers. Despite having more responsibilities, they are often compensated less.

The SMD can help policy makers and coaches to reflect on coaching in such a way
that considers the athlete and the coaching environment in relation to
exclusion (Townsend et.al. 2018) . The focus is then on the coach and coaching – not the ‘problem’ of impairment.

The Inclusive Coach

Most coaches adopt an inclusive approach to coaching which is strongly aligned with the SMD. For example, they would modify and adapt the environment (rather than exclude participants based on their abilities) to enable participants of different skill levels to take part in sport together.

Ironically, coaches typically practice this only with able-bodied participants. When asked to coach someone with a disability, most coaches are apprehensive and would be reluctant to include the PwD in his or her session. This is even though there are very few disabilities or conditions that completely preclude participation in sport.

Fortunately, thanks to the efforts of various government organizations, socially-driven enterprises and individuals, things are beginning to change for the better. More coaches are beginning to realise that they already possess the skills and knowledge required to coach persons with a disability. The only piece missing in their coaching “toolkit” is a basic understanding of a few key aspects that are unique to PwDs.

To help you with this, here’s a link to a “toolkit” developed by the National Council of Social Services (NCSS). It provides you with the basic information, guidelines, and tips to interact with PwDs. You can also check out this link to learn how the TREE model can assist you in creating conditions for effective participation and inclusion.

In a nutshell….

  1. As demonstrated by Joan’s game against the three sighted athletes, in an enabling environment, PwDs may not necessary be less capable than their able-bodied peers.
  1. The Social Model of Disability serves as an reflective tool for removing physical and attitudinal barriers faced by PwDs and their coaches.

  1. Most coaches already possess the necessary technical skills and knowledge to coach PwDs.

Coach Hansen


People with Disability Australia (PWDA), 2018. ‘Social Model of Disability’. Retrieved from https://pwd.org.au/resources/disability-info/social-model-of-disability/

Martin, J.J. (2013) Benefits and barriers to physical activity for individuals with disabilities: a social-relational model of disability perspective, Disability and Rehabilitation, 35:24, 2030-2037

Shakespeare, T. (2006). Disability rights and wrongs. Abingdon: Routledge.

Taylor, S. L., Werthner, P., & Culver, D. M. (2014). A Case Study of a Parasport Coach and a
Life of Learning. International Sport Coaching Journal, 1, 127-38.

Townsend, Robert & Cushion, Christopher. (2018). Athlete-centred coaching in disability sport: A critical perspective.

The Roof is Leaking

There is a small hole in the roof of the office.

Joe places a small pail to collect the water when it rains.

The hole is getting bigger. Joe uses a bigger pail.

The hole gets even bigger. Jen offers to help Joe. They will use another pail to replace the first before it gets filled.

It’s the rainy season and a second hole appears!

Joe and Jen are overwhelmed by the constant switching of pails. They can’t keep up with their own BAU. Their manager assigns Jen to take over Joe’s work so he can focus on the roof situation. Jen gets upset that she has to do extra work.

Thankfully, the dry season approaches.

The manager comes up with a great solution. She requests funding from the director to fly in an overseas expert to help with the situation. Joe is mentored by the expert. Additional funds are used to purchase specialized pails and an expensive wet weather radar recommended by the expert.

The rainy season is here again and another hole appears!

There are now three holes but Joe is ready! With his new expertise and equipment, he manages the situation superbly. Joe receives a new title – ‘Environmental Control Specialist’.

An additional staff named Jeff is hired to take over Joe’s original BAU. Jeff and Jen will still assist Joe when the need arises. There are now three persons in the new ‘Environmental Control’ team.

It’s time for the annual awards dinner!

Joe is promoted to Manager and commended for contributing towards a safe and clean working environment. His manager has been selected to attend a two year leadership program in the Switzerland as a reward for her innovation. She will take on the role of Director when she returns to Singapore.

The roof is still leaking…

Coach Hansen

#bullshitjobs #morejobs #betterjobs #upskill #essentialservices #gettingshitdone #innovation #productivity

The $1 Investment

You probably have an ambitious goal.

Like any worthwhile goal, it’s often complex with a series of problems to be solved.

And of course, challenges are going to be inevitable and resources are likely to be limited.

It’s stressful to even think about where and how you should start, and if it is even possible or worthwhile to achieve this goal. Speaking from personal experience, I sometimes get so overwhelmed and I would give up before I even got started.

So what could be a possible solution?

Here’s a simple thought exercise that I’ve discovered. It has helped me to break down and simplify things. Perhaps it might work for you too.

I call it the $1 Investment and I created these 3 steps to make the method seem more legitimate 😉

Step 1:

Hold your goal in your mind and list down all the different tasks and problems that need to solve in order for you to achieve this goal.

Step 2:

Imagine that each task requires an investment of $1 and you ONLY have a dollar to invest!

Ask yourself,

“Which task would bring about the most returns?”

“Which is that one main problem that if I could solve, will result in other related or subsidiary issues being resolved as well?”

“It is possible to be busy-very busy-without being very effective.”

Stephen Covey

Step 3:

Invest that $1 in the most generative option, and repeat the process again once you have taken action to solve the problem.

Have a go!

Coach Hansen