Self defence class knocks down barriers for residents living with disabilities

A self defence class for people with disabilities has been praised by local residents and advocates for its inclusivity.

Wheatbelt Boxing Club founder James West ran the class at the Lesser Town Hall in Northam in response to an online demand.

"I did a women's self defence class and I had people on social media asking 'what about people with disabilities?' - my answer to that is just ask me," Mr West said.

"I'll find a way to make it work.

"I got in touch with disability support service Essential Personnel and I told them what I wanted to do.

"I told them I wanted to work with people with disabilities and support workers - they need it just as much the others.

"I wanted to work with them and show them how to make it work."

Mr West said the response from the public was overwhelming.

"When you have been coaching for 25 years you take for granted the most basic self defence," he said.

"On the day we blew up some balloons and we were doing hand eye coordination.

"When they were doing it they had so much fun.

"When you tell someone able bodied to do it they shrug it off, but these guys took it to the next level and loved it."

Northam resident Shirley Cook, who uses a mobility scooter to get around because of her rheumatoid arthritis, said she in the past there has been a lack of events targeted at people who have a disability.

"For me and other people I know, we often won't show up to these sorts of things because when we get there we are told to sit in a corner because it is not suitable for us," Ms Cook said.

"To have something that is run with us front and centre is so great."

Disability advocate and Wheatbelt Health Network Linkability project manager Sam Connor said the self defence classes fulfilled a need for those living with a disability.

"It's so important that people with disability have access to the same community programs and services as other people," Ms Connor said.

"At Wheatbelt Health Network, we run a project called Wheatbelt Linkability, which helps people identify accessible and inclusive services and supports.

"Disabled people and older people can be targeted as victims of crime; it's important that we get the tools that we need to stay safe and fight back."

Mr West said he plans to offer specialised classes for people in wheelchairs and elderly members of the public.

"I don't limit it to people who can do it; I limit it to the people who want to do it," he said.

"People take it for granted when events are here in town.

"When you reach out to people who don't normally get those chances they come out in full force which is amazing."

For more information on upcoming classes see the Wheatbelt Boxing Club Facebook page.