Table tennis is a truly inclusive sport that can be played by anyone, anywhere. Its accessibility lies in its adaptability for a variety of ability levels and disabilities.
For this reason, it is one of the most popular sports among people with disabilities – particularly for wheelchair users – and is attracting an increasing number of followers and players worldwide.
As well as being a popular leisure pursuit for young and old, table tennis is becoming an increasingly popular competitive discipline and is one of the traditional Paralympic sports and one of the largest.
We are proud to have achieved multiple medals at these Games – including a gold medal at Rio 2016 by English table tennis player and Strictly Come Dancing star Will Bayley MBE.
I want to be remembered for being a great table tennis player, not a disabled guy that played table tennis.
The 31-year-old, who is currently Paralympic, world and European champion, was born with arthrogryposis, a rare congenital disorder that affected all four of his limbs, and at the age of seven, he also contracted non-Hodgkin lymphoma (a type of cancer). Will’s disability means he is slower than others and his range of movement is impaired, in particular with regard to the use of his wrist.
He is currently based in Sheffield with the British Para Table Tennis squad and is training ahead of Tokyo 2020.
To get an insight into a day in the life of the pro player, click here.
Or to watch his gold-medal winning match in Rio, press play below.
How to get into table tennis if you have a disability
I’d suggest going to a local club first and foremost. You can visit Table Tennis England’s website to find somewhere near you. If you have already found a club you like and have started to play, just be patient. It is difficult at the beginning to get the hang of the game. You shouldn’t give up too easily.
Will Bayley, Paralympic player
Table Tennis England works in partnership with British Para Table Tennis to attract as many disabled players from across England as possible to experience the sport through clubs, leagues and events and to further develop the opportunities for disabled players.
To help you get started in table tennis, see the below tips:
- Table tennis clubs all over the country are always looking to welcome new members of all ages and abilities. Find your nearest place to play using our table finder.
- Our inclusivity section offers guidance on how people with various disabilities can easily get involved in the sport.
- Need an introductory programme for children? TT Kidz is a fun eight-week programme that introduces table tennis to 7-to-11-year-olds.
- Our Ping! programme is responsible for placing many of the tables in public places, as well as opening Ping Pong Parlours in empty retail spaces. Ping in the Community also makes it easy for community groups to set up affordable table tennis sessions – click here to find out more about Ping!
- Interested in introducing table tennis to your place of work? Research shows staff who make time to play are happier, healthier and more productive! Click here to visit our Loop homepage and find out how easy and affordable it is to introduce workplace table tennis!
Table Tennis Clubs in England with disability-friendly facilities:
The Power of Ping – playing in a social setting:
For proof that table tennis is a truly inclusive sport, look no further than St Vincent’s Support Centre in Leeds.
There’s no them and us . . . everyone comes in and all of a sudden there’s a game on. Because of the way it’s adapted, there’s no boundaries, so I don’t think anybody feels they can’t join in.
The centre helps people with a range of health conditions and provides table tennis as a weekly session, with adapted ping pong equipment provided by Table Tennis England allowing everyone to get involved, regardless of their conditions or disabilities.
The activity helps the participants to socialise, grow in confidence and learn different skills; and they really look forward to playing table tennis each week, as you can tell from watching the video below.