Today marks the International Day of People with a Disability.

The Saints have long been known as an inclusive football club, and their work with Australians living with a disability is no exception.

2018 has seen the Saints launch their very first wheelchair football team, continue to deliver and expand SaintsPlay, and roll up their sleeves for Wallara.

In conjunction with Disability Sport and Recreation, the Saints’ wheelchair team was an enormous success.

St Kilda’s first season in the inaugural Victorian Wheelchair Football League competition saw them finish in third place and feature heavily at the league awards night.

Star Saint Patrick McKay claimed the first ever league-wide best and fairest, as well as the same award for St Kilda, as the Saints were voted by their peers as the team who best incorporated the AFL values play as one team, play fair, play to win and play with passion.

McKay also joined captain Marcus Sander in the VWFL Team of the Year, capping off an outstanding season for the wheelchair side.

Earlier in 2018, the Saints continued their commitment to growing inclusiveness in football, hosting their second AllPlay Footy Pre-Learn Day at RSEA Park.

AllPlay Footy, a partnership between Deakin University and the AFL with the support of the NDIS and Moose Toys, was established to create opportunities for all children to play sport and reduce the barriers to inclusion in sport and play for children with developmental challenges.

A few small changes to the NAB Auskick program such as shortening the activities, increasing repetitions and allowing breaks has meant that the one in five children with a developmental disability can now get involved.

The Saints have also made significant strides with SaintsPlay, a program supported by VicHealth.

SaintsPlay aims to empower Bayside clubs and schools to host inclusive football programs, as well as establishing their own NAB AFL Auskick pre-learn days across the region.

The club’s work with Auslan (Australian Sign Language) seeks to promote awareness and support for the deaf community, as well as an understanding of how best to include this community both online and in person.

St Kilda’s work with Auslan has also extended to closed captions on club videos shared via social media channels, and an increased presence of Auslan presenters at major club functions (including game day) and events, such as the Best and Fairest night.

Just last week, St Kilda players, coaches and staff swapped footballs for power tools to support community partner Wallara.

Wallara is an organisation dedicated to providing services, accommodation, training and work experience to those within the community living with a disability.

More than 400 adults with differing abilities are part of their programs as the organisation continues its mission “to empower the people they support to live the life they choose.”

This year, the Saints stepped up their support with players joining coaches and staff to deliver two new projects and raise awareness of the incredibly valuable work Wallara does in the community.

Click here to join the Saints in their fundraising effort and help Wallara continue to support people in the community living with a disability.

On 1 December, the Saints are hosting Breaking Through the Barrier with support from OzChild.

The event is aimed at encouraging children with physical or intellectual disabilities to overcome obstacles by participating in wheelchair sports, while fostering important life skills such as teamwork and determination.