Disability tennis

Tennis really is a sport for all. 

It can be adapted for any level of ability and for players with different impairments.

We can supply all the equipment and aids you need – we’ve got sports wheelchairs if you have a physical impairment, and tennis balls that make a noise when they bounce if you’re visually impaired.  

There’s nothing stopping you from giving it a go and having just as much fun playing the game as everyone else.  

Through our Open Court programme, the LTA has helped a record number of disabled people pick up a racket and enjoy the benefits of being active through tennis - and we’re to create more opportunities for people from all backgrounds across Britain to learn how to play and enjoy tennis. 

What are the different categories of disability tennis? 

Wheelchair Tennis 

It’s one of the fastest growing wheelchair sports in the world, and we reckon it’s the most fun – welcome to wheelchair tennis! 

For those new to the sport, it’s almost identical to tennis apart from one key rule – wheelchair tennis players are allowed to let the ball bounce twice (whereas in traditional tennis, players can only let the ball bounce once).  

To give players more freedom, only the first bounce needs to be within the lines of the court as well. 

Two wheelchair tennis players in action

Wheelchair tennis is open to everyone – you don't need to be a wheelchair user to play it. and both disabled and non-disabled tennis players can play together. 

In the professional game there are two categories of wheelchair tennis – the ‘Open’ and ‘Quad’ divisions.  Men and women compete separately in the ‘Open’ division, while players with higher levels of impairment compete in the mixed ‘Quad’ division.  

Wheelchair tennis is played at the Paralympics as well as all of the Grand Slams – and at other international tournaments. 

Haven’t got your own sports wheelchair? No problem, many LTA registered tennis venues across Britain have their own stock of wheelchairs that new players can use – find out more about how you can give it a try with our Wheelchair Tennis Initative.  

Find a venue near you, or for more information about wheelchair sport, please visit our national partners WheelPower,  Limbpower and Cerebral Palsy Sport.

Open Court – get involved! 

Funded by Sport England and the LTA, the Open Court Programme supports more than 500 tennis venues across Britain deliver sessions for disabled people and those with long term health conditions. As well as supporting venues and coaches to deliver activity, we also support and run local, regional and national disability tennis competitions for any and all abilities, and for the very best players there are opportunities to play for Great Britain too!

Since its launch following the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the Open Court programme has become one of the largest of its kind across any sport, with tennis activity that caters for a range of impairments – including physical (wheelchair), visually impaired, deaf,learning disability, mental health and long term health conditions such as dementia

So, if you’re a player or a parent or guardian or carer interested in finding out more, please click through to our find a venue page. 

Deaf Tennis 

Deaf and hard of hearing is a hidden impairment. It is often hard to know whether someone is deaf or hard of hearing if they don’t wear a cochlear implant or hearing aid. 

People who are deaf or hard of hearing have different levels of hearing, from mild to totally deaf.  

To be eligible for deaf tennis a player has to have an average hearing loss of 55dB or more in their best ear – find out more about hearing loss here. 

But, how does being deaf affect your tennis game you might ask?  

Deaflympics gold medallist and LTA National Deaf Tennis Coach Catherine Fletcher lists some of the most common issues for deaf players. 

Catherine Fletcher gives a talk

  • Not hearing the net when it is a let and not hearing the umpire on line calls. 

  • Not being able to hear whether your opponent’s shot is a topspin or slice. 

  • Having to watch the ball extra carefully as not hearing can make a shot a fraction of a second slower for a deaf player compared to someone who can hear.

Find a venue near you, or for more information about deaf sport, please visit our national partner UK Deaf Sport

Visually Impaired Tennis 

Visually Impaired Tennis (known as VI Tennis) is one of the leading sports for blind and partially sighted people in the UK.   

VI Tennis was created in Japan in 1984 and has become popular across the world – it is now played in more than 30 countries and has ambitions to become a future Paralympic sport.   

This format of the game is different to traditional tennis – it's played on a smaller court with a lower net. Courts also have tactile lines (so players can touch them) and players also use an audible tennis ball that makes noise so they can hear it bounce and being hit.  

A VI tennis player feels a tactile line

VI Tennis categories: 

  • B1 No sight and players are allowed three bounces of the ball  

  • B2 Partial sight and players are allowed three bounces of the ball  

  • B3 Partial sight and players are allowed two bounces of the ball 

  • B4 and B5 Partial sight and are allowed one bounce of the ball 

Find a venue near you, or for more information about visually impaired sport, please visit our national partner British Blind Sport

Learning Disability Tennis 

So, what’s a learning disability?  

Leading charity MENCAP define a learning disability as having reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities, which affects an individual for their whole life.  

A player with a learning disability celebrates during a tennis match

When it comes to tennis, a learning disability includes learning difficulties such as Down’s Syndrome, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Tennis is the perfect game for anyone with a learning disability/difficulty. It can be adapted to suit any level of ability. We can make the court smaller, use bigger rackets or special balls designed to slow the game down and make it easier to play. 

When it comes to competitions, criteria for entry are connected to the person’s IQ, though, with anyone with an IQ of less than 75 eligible to compete. The world's leading learning disability tennis players compete in the Special Olympics. 

Find a venue near you, or for more about learning disability sport, please visit our national partners Special Olympics GB and MENCAP Sport.