The Disabled Sailing Association of Ontario (DSAO) was established in 1999 to provide sailing opportunities for Ontarians living with disabilities, regardless of ability or age.
The goals of the organization are:
- To provide unique, enjoyable experiences for its participants which include opportunities for therapeutic, recreational, rehabilitative, social and competitive activities
- To build confidence and self-esteem for people with disabilities, and enhance their independence
- To facilitate the integration of disabled and able-bodied individuals through recreation and competition
In 1999, DSAO’s flagship program QQDSP (Queens Quay Disabled Sailing Program) was created by Danny McCoy as an extension to British Columbia’s Disabled Sailing Association (1989) and the Mobility Cup (1991), founded by Sam Sullivan. Mobility Cup was brought to eastern Canada for the first time in 1999, hosted by DSAO and held at National Yacht Club.
The realization that our lakes serve as a great healer and equalizer inspires people living with disabilities to enjoy the freedom of wind, sun and spray.
DSAO has the resources and equipment to provide assistive technology to those sailors who do not have full use or strength of their arms or hands. In these cases, a device called an “Autohelm” can be easily fitted into the boat. The Autohelm has a small joystick, similar to a video game control, that can be used to steer the boat. In addition, a windlass (winch) can also be fitted on to the boat and both sheets can then also be controlled with a touch of the fingers – left or right for steering, forward or back to adjust the sails.
The boat can be further adapted using the Autohelm to be controlled by a sophisticated straw system called “Sip ‘n Puff”. As the name suggests, the sailor uses their breath to control the helm and sails.
By just inhaling or exhaling gently into the straw, the rudder will move left or right and the sails can be let in or out. With this incredible design, high-level quadriplegics (those with no movement below the neck) can independently sail the boat.