England

Wheelchair user barred from dance class in Reading

Susi Rogers-Hartley jumping at Blenheim in 2011
Image caption Susi Rogers-Hartley has been invited back to the class to discuss ways she could be integrated

A wheelchair user has been barred from a dance class in Berkshire.

Susi Rogers-Hartley was stopped from attending the class at the Reading Canoe Club, until "further notice".

International para-show jumper Ms Rogers-Hartley, from Oxfordshire, broke her back falling from a wall on an assault course, in 1998.

Organisers All Jazzed Up said they sympathised, but must first consult their insurers to work out how to integrate her into the Lindy Hop class.

Ms Rogers-Hartley, from Upton near Didcot, said she wept all day after being told not to attend what would have been her second class, on Tuesday.

"When I was able-bodied I ran marathons and was very active," she said.

"But now I'm in a wheelchair sport is far more important to me."

The former Royal Navy communications worker told how she decided to join a friend at the dance class after watching dancing shows on television.

"I was bouncing off the walls with excitement about going this Tuesday but then I was told I couldn't attend," she said.

"They said I'd made the teachers nervous and they were worried about me wheeling over someone's toes and they mentioned insurance.

"The class has people aged in their 80s, they could easily fall over and break a hip. If I can't take any risks I may as well wrap myself in cotton wool and live in a box."

But All Jazzed Up, a small, non-profit making dance club run by volunteers, said she is not the first disabled dancer they have worked with.

Teacher Jean Harper said: "We have taught visually impaired students, students who are hard of hearing and someone with Parkinson's disease but none of us are trained to teach wheelchair dancing or have any training or experience in how to adapt Lindy Hop to wheelchair dancing."

Image caption Susi Rogers-Hartley broke her back after falling from a wall on a Royal Navy assault course in 1998

Sue Cummings, of the UK Wheelchair Dance Sport Association (UK), said she had been contacted about the case.

"I don't think Jean should be victimised over this," she said.

"While it's wonderful to be all-inclusive, and I'm a wheelchair user, there are some dance classes a wheelchair user is not going to be able to do because a wheelchair does not react the same as legs do. If you don't know what their injuries are, you can injure them and the person who did it would be liable."

Mrs Harper said All Jazzed Up has told Ms Rogers-Hartley she is welcome to attend the evening and share her ideas on how they might integrate her into the class.

She said they had also asked her to provide details of her back injury, so the Wheelchair Sports Association could assess her.

"We are currently investigating the situation with the Wheelchair Sports Association, who run specific residential courses in wheelchair dance teaching and associated examinations to try and discover whether and how we can teach Lindy Hop safely for all concerned," Mrs Harper said.

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