Doug was a ParalympicsGB swimming coach at the New York 1984 Paralympic Games as well as a technician and classifier. He is the founder, creator and inspiration behind Sports Ability, an inclusive games programme delivered worldwide which gives young people with high support needs opportunities to participate and compete in sporting activities, often for the first time. 

Early Life

Doug Williamson was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia where he attended Scotch College between 1957 and 1961. He then went on to study at the University of Western Australia where he earned a teacher’s certificate before moving on to work at the Universities of Oregon and Missouri in the early 1970s. 

Involvement in the Paralympics

Doug was a Paralympic swimming coach for Great Britain at the New York 1984 Paralympic Games as well as a technician and classifier. In 2010, he retired from disabled swimming coaching after 25 years. 

Contribution to Para sports

In 1973, Doug joined Nottingham Trent University as a Lecturer in Sports for People with a Disability. 

In 1982 he coordinated the swimming events at the first Great Britain Special Olympics Summer Games in Kirby, Liverpool.

Doug is part of the team at the Project Adapted unit at Nottingham Trent University, established to:

provide a focal point in Higher Education for research, course development and consultancy related to providing practical support for Adapted Physical Activities.

Since 1984 the unit has developed polybat, table cricket, target cricket, floor lacrosse, zone hockey, and pendulum bowling.

He has been described as:

making a significant contribution to the development of disability sport in the area by encouraging the local authority and its officers, as well as the university’s students, to take a lead in the development and delivery of recreational as well as competitive opportunities for disabled people.

Doug led on the development of polybat which was devised as an alternative for participants who did not fit the profile for boccia and were unable to play conventional table tennis. Played with a ball and two bats, the players sit at opposite ends of a rectangular table which has raised barriers along the sides to stop the ball dropping off the table. In 1997 it was included in the Youth Sport Trust’s ‘Sportsability’ scheme, after which the prototype wood bats were replaced with plastic ones which allowed higher volume production and, with that, a much wider roll-out. Subsequent recognition by the British Table Tennis Association as a table tennis based game has extended the opportunities to compete in and enjoy the sport.

Table cricket, played on a table tennis table, was initially developed by Doug in 1990, the result of a desire to provide a sporting opportunity for young people who could not participate in traditional Paralympic sports and was trialled in Nottingham and at Stoke Mandeville. A strategic game, played by those with both learning and physical disabilities, it has been shown to help with coordination and cognitive skills in addition to developing social skills and teamwork. It was a demonstration sport at the Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association (CPISRA) 2015 World Games held at Nottingham Trent University.

Doug has been a Consultant at Cerebral Palsy Sport (CP Sport) since 2010.


In 2010, Nottingham Trent University awarded Doug an honorary role as Visiting Fellow, in recognition of his services to Adapted PE and Sport for the Disabled in education and the community, including international work.

Oral history interview with Doug

Interview by Dr Rosemary Hall, 7th October 2020

Download the transcript here


  • Nigel Thomas, Andy Smith, Disability, Sport and Society: An Introduction. London: Routledge