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Spotlight On: Paraclimbing with the British Mountaineering Counc

April 14th, 2014

For those of you who know me, I am a deaf adventure junkie and love nothing more than attaching myself to a rope to climb great heights or strapping myself to a board to be dragged behind a boat! I am also the CEO of iDID Adventure CIC, a social enterprise supporting deaf and disabled people to participate in adventure sports.

After losing my hearing and acquiring a disability, I saw a different side to the adventure industry – one with huge fences baring the ‘disabled people not welcome’ sign.

Times have changed hugely since I was first turned away from climbing because I was deaf and recently in a radio interview I was posed with the following question: How has adventure accessibility changed since you first started iDID?

For a number of years, iDID Adventure has been fighting for better access to adventure sports but we’re not the only ones! I say this a lot but attitude change doesn’t happen without collaboration and that is exactly what iDID is part of. Without the work of fantastic organisations, iDID wouldn’t be successful. iDID never seeks to replace services that already exist, we look for the gaps and aim to fill them, or support others to do so, which is why we work in partnership with providers across the country.

To answer the question, we need to review what the situation was when we first began.

I want to talk specifically about the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) as recently, I competed in the first round of the Paraclimbing Series and its one of iDID’s core sports. Given that my first experience of inaccessibility occurred in rock climbing, I thought it most appropriate to review its progression. Unfortunately, money doesn’t grow on trees and vital funding is required to allow charities and National Governing Bodies to improve the work they do. Following the success of the Paralympic 2012, funding was opened up to increase disabled participation in sport. As with all funding, targets follow.

I’m not implying that having extra targets is the only reason organisations increase their accessible provisions but it certainly helps. If anything, it puts a priority on inclusive projects. So what does this have to do with the BMC? Well… I think they need to be proud that they began addressing accessibility prior to the games and have worked closely with leading organisations but I’m guessing due to limited resources, were not always able to act on their progressive ideas.

In the last few years, the BMC have worked their socks off to bring Great Britain up to scratch for international competition and have firmly put our country on the map for climbing talent. With the support of key climbing centres, volunteers and climbing organisations… not forgetting GB’s amazing paraclimbers, the BMC have launched a national climbing competition for disabled athletes!

Using a top down approach, the BMC are able to meet organisations like iDID and OnThisRoc, in the middle to ensure that both grassroots opportunities have progression routes and that competition opportunities have an entry route. It’s fantastic to see!

I want to talk a little about the talent in our country, to which the BMC’s success wouldn’t exist without. World paraclimbing champion Fran Brown never ceases to amaze me, watching her on the wall you would never guess that she had broken her neck in an accident! The same can be said for the likes of Sianagh Gallagher, Europe’s only one armed climber and Rad Breeze, one of Team GB’s VI climbers.

As I mentioned earlier, I recently took part in the first round of the 2014 Paraclimbing series and was rather overwhelmed to be in the company of these greats! It was my first competition so I didn’t know what to expect but with climbers like the above involved, you turn up wanting to have your s*@t together.

Susanne Rees with #1 deaf climber Georgia Pilkington

I’m going to be honest here… I definitely did not expect the day to go as it did. I am the same as many out there who get daunted by the idea of competition but I literally could not have been made to feel any more welcome. The BMC team were fantastic, they supported me to understand how the day was structured and even supported me when I was climbing. Everyone gathers around climbers to give support and you can’t help but feel part of a family, all of my initial worries had disappeared within half an hour and I had the best day. I can’t wait for the next two rounds now.

There are two reasons I took part in the competition. 1) Because I believe in experience. Understanding how our members feel is vital to ensuring they are supported enough in their activities. If I’m going to be encouraging young people to get involved, I should know what that feels like. Too many organisations miss this vital ingredient and instructors can often become too specialised, they forget what it’s like to be new to the sport and with psychological barriers being the biggest cause of non-participation, solutions can only be found by experiencing them.

The second reason was to represent deaf people. I was absolutely delighted and proud of the BMC that they have continuously supported the entry of deaf climbers. With deaf climbers now taking an interest and realising that climbing is accessible for them, this category will grow. The next mission is to have this reflected in the international community – I can only hope that the BMC have this high on their agenda.

In conclusion, my answer is this. With NGB’s and organisations taking such huge steps, we are seeing real growth in accessible opportunities and will continue to do so.  There is a lot of work to do, there always is but all this work means nothing if we don’t have a response from the deaf and disabled communities. I urge you to go to your local climbing centre, get involved!

There are two more rounds in the paraclimbing series and spaces are available, check out the BMC webpage for more information on booking. If you want to go but are a little daunted, get in touch – we’d be happy to help. Here are the dates for the diary:



See you there!

Categories:   iDID Adventure  

Posted By:  Susanne Rees

Comments:  0

5 Reasons to be in love with Summit Clothing

April 10th, 2014

Today we are proud to announce a new partnership with Summit Clothing. Here are a few reasons why we love them, and you should too!

Social Change

As a social enterprise, Summit Clothing take a unique approach to business. Whilst they need to trade to be sustainable, they use their profits to invest in society. Far from the evil cackling and dreaming of retiring to the bahamas, Summit are focused on supporting others to ensure they create a social impact. How do they do this? Well... one example is working with iDID Adventure. iDID specialise in adventure sports for deaf and disabled adults and provide grassroots opportunities for young people to get involved in sports such as rock climbing, skiing, wakeboarding and canoeing. The guys at Summit recognise the importance of our work to build confidence and self-esteem in young deaf and disabled adults. Keep up to date with their social programmes: #seethechange


With a high quality range of clothing and equipment, you can be sure that you're not only purchasing in a socially conscious way but that you are getting some of the best brands in the market. By purchasing from Summit, you are having a direct impact on the projects they support, a fantastic way to support the world around you!


Keiran Hewkin, owner of Summit Clothing is an adventurer himself. Passionate about adventure sports, he understands the benefits they bring to people's lives and wants to make sure everyone has access to them... Keiran definitely gets the 'AWESOME' stamp from us!


With a dedication to our partnership, Summit Clothing are offering an exclusive discount to iDID Members, details of this can be given through your club network - It's a great way for our members to have affordable access to the outdoors!


Not one to waste time, Summit owner Keiran was keen to get cracking on his first project with iDID and is supporting our Northampton Adventure Club, iDID Northampton, to take part in the BMC Paraclimbing Series. This is a fantastic opportunity for the young deaf and disabled adults in the club to get their first taste of national success!

Here's what iDID CEO, Susanne Rees had to say about the new partnership,

"We're delighted to be working with Summit Clothing We've only just launched the partnership and already Summit are beaming with ideas to support us. It was important for us to make sure we partner with organisations that are both passionate about supporting others and provide high quality - as a fellow Social Enterprise, Summit are a perfect fit! Partnerships are really important in social enterprise and we can only hope that other organisations are encouraged to work with us too"

Summit Clothing Owner, Keiran Hewkin further added,

"Summit Clothing are firmly committed to investing in social projects that help get everyone, no matter what background or ability, the chance to experience the wild. A partnership with iDID means that both Social Enterprises can further their impact and offering to people that may have thought adventure was just out of reach"

You can find out more by visiting the Summit Clothing website


Posted By:  Susanne Rees

Comments:  0

Guest Blog for ID Band Co: Adventure sports improve well-being

April 1st, 2014

Susanne Rees, 28, from Northampton, has neurofibromatosis, a rare condition which affects balance, hearing and dexterity.

As a sporty person she knows all too well that there are few adventure activities on offer for disabled people. In a bid to change this, Susanne set up IDID Adventure, which offers action−packed pursuits to people with medical conditions.

Here she explains how adventure sports improve physical and mental health.

Independence and Diversity In Disability

Susanne explains that the name IDID Adventure has an inspirational meaning.

"The name IDID means Independence and Diversity In Disability. It was born as a reaction to the misunderstanding of the term disability.

"I wanted to make a point that disabled people don't just fit a label. Each and every individual is unique and beautiful in their own way. This applies to sport too − I got frustrated that only certain sports were available for deaf and disabled people, " she says.

Before IDID Adventure, there were few opportunities available for young people with health conditions to get involved in adventure sports.

"People with physical and mental health problems were able to access adventure sports on a one−off or holiday basis, but there wasn't anything with continuous participation on offer, " says Susanne.

Adventure Engages the Mind

Adventure sports play a crucial part in improving health − as Susanne knows only too well.

"Rock climbing has become an important medium to help me accept my disability and also actively improve my health. For years, I have been referred to specialist physiotherapists and loaded with countless exercises that as a young person, I did not find engaging.

"I realised it was crucial to continue my physio work, but wanted to explore how else I could do this. I noticed I could manage my balance problems and energy levels through a combination of climbing, wakeboarding and Pilates, and I slowly saw my health improving."

IDID Adventure is about more than fitness and fun. Susanne's mission is to improve people's wellbeing, confidence and self−esteem through rock climbing, canoeing and wakeboarding, and other adventure sports.

"For us, adventure sports aren't just about physical fitness and having a good time. We focus on these sports specifically because of the phenomenal benefits they bring to people's lives. Building resilience is a big part of what we do. Adventure sports are crucial to self−development, as you are only competing with yourself, " she says.

"The skills involved with each activity can help to improve communications skills, risk management, problem solving, resilience and increase independence. These life skills are vital to ensuring a positive future for young disabled adults. "

Improving Lives

IDID Adventure has clubs in Northampton and Bristol offering exciting activities for people with disabilities.

Susanne comes across some poignant stories during the course of her work but one in particular stands out, regarding a long−standing member at their Northampton base.

"A boy joined our Northampton club when we had just finished the pilot project. He has CHARGE syndrome and is completely deaf. When he first began working with us, his confidence was very low. He was a competent signer but lacked the confidence to use his communication skills, and it was very difficult to engage with him.

"We worked with his mum and utilised IDID's Sign Climb System© to enable us to provide full inclusivity. He began to connect with the volunteers more, and as his understanding of climbing grew, so too did his confidence.

"To see him now, you wouldn't recognise him from the young man who first arrived using only two signs in his vocabulary. Now he supports new members of the club and has just begun our volunteer programme. He will also be representing IDID at this year's BMC Paraclimbing series. "

How to Choose the Appropriate Medical ID

Wearing some form of medical ID is always a good idea.

"I think wearing medical ID is a great idea. Most ID products are in the form of a card, which is not convenient. If I am out on the water, a card is certainly not going to be in my back pocket.

"I like the idea of the wristband, especially in watersports. In rock climbing, a band may be less convenient as we advise everyone to take off all jewellery for health and safety reasons. Something like a shoe tag would be more useful here, " says Susanne.

Unlike paperwork or a card, she finds that ID bands are much more appealing to sporting enthusiasts.

"For watersports and winter sports, the silicone wristband is most definitely the most convenient. Given the culture around these sports, it's hard to find people who don't wear wristbands."

Face Your Fears

Because adventure sports are quite rare in the UK, there is often a lack of knowledge as to what they involve − and a perception that they're only for elite, able−bodied athletes.

"People are often unsure on whether or not they should give adventure sports a go. These activities aren't really a mainstream sporting pastime and there is confusion over what they actually involve.

"The media doesn't always help and usually the only experience we have is seeing adrenaline junkies or elite athletes performing at the highest level. Psychologically, they are already inaccessible. "

Pictured above − The IDID Northampton gang getting ready for an indoor climbing session.

By facing your fears you'll soon be hooked on all things extreme, says Susanne.

"Even the wildest adventurers had to start somewhere. When I first went wakeboarding, I'd seen all these really cool people jumping and twisting about in the air and thought, see you later, " she laughs.

The prospect of adventure sports can be daunting for anyone.

"I have balance difficulties, visual issues and I am deaf − it didn't seem like a recipe for success to me, " says Susanne.

"After facing my fear, I am hooked. This was exactly the same for climbing − you'd be surprised how much it helps you physically and how quickly you develop. "

Keep Emergency Procedures Simple

IDID Adventure teach young people how to manage risks safely. Ensuring that their instructors and volunteers are fully aware of members' medical conditions is a crucial safety element.

"We ensure all members complete registration and health forms which are present whenever the club is run.

"Keeping good records and being fully aware of all conditions is essential. By ensuring we have emergency contact details and first aid trained staff, we can overcome issues as they arise. "

Susanne believes that having in case of emergency details readily available at all times would make emergency procedures easier.

"In first aid training I have always been taught to check for ICE details. I do think something like an ID band would simplify the emergency procedures.

"I think it's crucial to have either a form of identification or a representative who knows you and your history. It's a precaution that is often overlooked. "

Give Adventure Sports a Go

Susanne encourages people of all ages to give adventure sports a go.

"I can promise you that it looks far harder than it actually is. I can't even begin to explain the feeling you get when you achieve something you didn't think possible, not to mention, it's so much fun. "

Categories:   Guest Blogs  

Posted By:  Susanne Rees

Comments:  0