Want to learn how to sail? Mike Wood’s association does exactly this: teach people with mobility impairments the wonders of sailing the seas. After a road accident in 1978 that caused him a spinal cord injury and a paralysis from the chest down, Mike has never once stopped, and now he wants to take 4000 wheelchair users on the sea… will you be one of them?
An experienced sailor since the 80s, Mike sailed on dinghys and organised regular racing at various venues around the UK, and the big success of the operation led him to create his own association, seeing that the existing ones were not accepting people with all kinds of disability, which was his specific goal, or were not equipped for people with any kind of disability at all.
He set up a charity that would help people with absolutely any type of disability to sail, the Thomas Morley Trust (named after a respected member of his family) but this has since become known as the Disabled Sailors Association.
Sailing in a suitable boat is a superb activity for disabled people and you either love it or hate it. For Mike it was life changing, just “the freedom of being alone on the water was a revelation”. In 1995 he raised the funds and had the first of the roll on roll off (RoRo) fully wheelchair accessible yachts built, Verity K. After the success of Verity, in 2000 he had Spirit of Scott Bader built and both yachts, without any advertising ,have always run at near capacity.
Both yachts are still unique in the world and there is demand world wide for more such accessible yachts. A few yachts have been built that offer ‘some’ wheelchair access for wealthy individuals and a few yachts have been modified to allow limited access but none offer the accessibility or experience of the DSA RoRo yachts.
The DSA purchased 10 each of the most popular monohull and multihull dinghies and for 10 sailing seasons loaned them to disabled people and adapted or modified the dinghies based on the feedback from the disabled people to arrive at designs that were suitable and interesting for all types of disabled people to sail. Since the start, over 40.000 people have sailed both in the UK and in Southern Spain, where the Disabled Sailors have a centre in Murcia.