Development Pathway


Development PathwayDisability Bowls England (DBE) aims to develop opportunities and improve performance for anyone with physical, sensory or learning (Intellectual) disabilities and as a member individuals can access a series of events and activities for those wishing to take up the sport of bowls. There are several Taster Days run across the country to which any player of any disability can attend and friendly matches which can be played indoor or outdoor and are sometimes focused on a specific disability. In addition, there are competitions, some of which are OPEN to all and others restricted to those with a formal bowls classification.

Bowls is recognised as one of the most accessible and integrated sports readily available and can be played by almost anyone, with or without a disability. It can be played in many formats: Singles, Pairs, Triples, Fours & team events. Bowls can be played competitively at local, national, and International level or can be enjoyed as a social past-time.
The Disability Bowls England Pathway Chart, as shown below, explains all your options.
Disability Bowls England Pathway Chart

TRAINING/TASTER DAYS: Any person with any disability can attend these events and receive an introduction to the sport. Members can attend for further instruction, coaching and training.

COACHING: DBE Coaching Sessions are arranged for players of all standards and assistance given to find and arrange local, individual coaching sessions.

FRIENDLY MATCHES: Members, players & volunteers can apply to play in any of the matches arranged throughout the country. It is an opportunity to meet other members and develop match skills.

COMPETITIONS/EVENTS: Members can enter a variety of competitions/events:

  • For players without a formal Bowls Classification
  • For new or inexperienced players
  • Open competitions for players with or without a formal bowls classification
  • For those players with a formal Bowls Classification
  • For a specific disability group
  • Regional & National Competitions
  • International and World events

REPRESENTATIVE EVENTS: Any playing member and Director for players with a visual impairment can apply to represent their Regional Team in the Inter Region Challenge matches. Selectors will consider general standard of play & competition results along with compatibility, ranking and rink formation.

PLAYERS WITHOUT A FORMAL CLASSIFICATION: Players ineligible for a formal bowls classification or opting not to apply for classification, can play in friendly matches, attend social events, represent their region and enter a number of competitions, including a singles competition purely for players without a classification.

DEvelopment PathwayFORMAL BOWLS CLASSIFICATION: Several events and competitions are only open to players who have been awarded a formal Bowls Classification and some competitions may be played specifically within the different classification groups.
*Physically Disabled * Visually Impaired * Learning (Intellectual) Disability.
A formal Bowls Classification is required to compete in International Competition, World Bowls Championships & Commonwealth Games.

Bowls Classification is split into three sections:
B1 – B4 is for bowlers with a Visual Impairment (VI’s) and have their own classification procedure that is governed by International Blind Bowls Association (IBBA)

The International Blind Bowls Association, in line with International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and International Blind Sport Association (IBSA), have adopted the Berkeley Rudimentary Vision Test (BRVT in logMAR units) as the standard method used to evaluate visual acuity.

B5 – B8 is for bowlers with a Physical Disability (PD’s). The disability MUST be permanent and irreversible.
Disabilities eligible for classification in the physical disability category include:

  • Spinal cord injuries, Polio, Amputations, Cerebral palsy, Head injuries, Progressive disorders, e.g. multiple sclerosis, Les autres i.e. achondroplasia, arthrogryposis & Any locomotor disability.
  • Disabilities not included in the physical system:
    When they exist with no other physical impairment, the following conditions do not make a person eligible for IBD classification:

  • Transplants, Deaf, Mental handicap, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Wear and tear due to advancing age, General debilitating disease, Obesity, Osteochondritis, Psychiatric conditions (including conversion disorder), Skin diseases, Haemophilia, Cystic fibrosis, Fibromyalgia, Ehlos Danlos, Myalgic encephalitis, Internal organ dysfunction or absence & Complex regional pain syndrome.

Development PathwayL1 – L3 is for bowlers with a Learning (Intellectual) Disability (LD’s) and have their own classification procedure for DBE events and an International Series between England, Scotland & Wales.
A person is considered to have a Learning (Intellectual) Disability for purposes of determining his or her eligibility to participate in the sport of bowls at a Local, National or International Competition, if that person satisfies any one of the following requirements.

A. The person has been identified as having a Learning (Intellectual) Disability: defined as ‘a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind, which is characterised by impairment of skills manifested during the developmental period, which contribute to the overall level of intelligence, i.e. cognitive, language, motor and social abilities’ (World Health Organisation ICD-10) In other words “A significantly reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social functioning) which started before adulthood, and with lasting effect on development”

B. In common with other national and international sports organisations, a person is deemed to have a Learning (Intellectual) Disability, if they have a full-scale IQ score of 75 or lower. IQ tests are acknowledged to be limited therefore it is important to gather additional information, to assist in understanding an individual’s abilities. In addition, the individual is usually expected to have significant difficulties with self-care, adaptive behaviour and self-organisational skills. This definition covers adults with autism who also have intellectual Impairment.

The procedure to obtain a Classification is governed by the International Bowls for the Disabled (IBD) with the award given by approved Classification Teams and ratified by the IBD.

  • For players with a Visual Impairment a medical diagnosis and sight test is obtained and sent to a Professional Ophthalmic Consultant who decides if a classification can be awarded and in which category. An examination may be required.
  • For players with a Physical Disability a medical diagnosis followed by a physical examination involving a series of tests to determine muscle strength; range of movement; co-ordination; amputation & balance are used to determine if a classification can be awarded and in which category.
  • For players with Learning (Intellectual) Disabilities. A person’s eligibility can be confirmed by someone who is professionally experienced in what does and does not constitute a learning (intellectual) disability. If there is no hard copy evidence or letter in existence of a person’s Learning disabilities, eligibility can be confirmed for example, by a Psychologist, Doctor, Head Teacher, local learning disability team advisor (local authority), Manager of a care home, CEO of a Learning Impairment specific organisation or Social Worker.

DEvelopment PathwayHIGH PERFORMANCE SQUADS: Players with a formal Physically Disabled or Visually Impaired Bowls Classification & Directors for players with a visual impairment can apply to join either or both the Indoor & Outdoor High-Performance Squads. (LD High Performance Squad is under review)
A limited number is accepted into the squads which are renewed on a 2-year cycle. Selectors consider the upcoming International events program and player requirement for those events, the ranking list, experience, coaching and player development.

Development includes:

  • Training days throughout the year, with access to appropriately qualified coaches to support further development
  • Technical, tactical & physical development, plus psychological and social learning outcomes required for international competition
  • International Events include: Trial days, Squad days, Test Matches, Annual Indoor + Outdoor Home Nations International Championships, International Bowls for the Disabled World Bowls Championships (every 4 years) & Commonwealth Games (every 4 years).

RANKING LIST (for players with a formal Bowls Classification)
Disability Bowls England produce a ranking list for both the Indoor & Outdoor codes. Each list is compiled by awarding points for reaching various stages of competitions and representative matches throughout the season.
The lists are update at the end of each season and calculated on a 4-year rolling cycle.

In each case more information and application forms can be obtained by emailing