Adaptive Softball for Wheelchair Users

In 1975, softball was adapted so that wheelchair users and other people of varying physical disabilities could participate. The next year, the National Wheelchair Softball Association (NWSA), the governing body for wheelchair softball in the United states, was founded.

Adaptive softball was founded in the Midwest in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The first team was known as the Sioux Wheelers. The sport then caught on in Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois and eventually to other countries and is now being played worldwide. The NWSA governs over 30 teams around the world and holds the Wheelchair Softball World Series (WSWS) annually to determine an annual champion. Up until 2013, the Wheelchair Softball World Series was known as the National Wheelchair Softball Tournament (NWST).

People involved in the adaptive softball community have been dedicated to growing the number of teams involved over the last 30 years, as well as making this sport a Paralympic sport. Not only is the adaptive softball community supportive and active in growing the sport, but they’ve even sought and found allegiance and sponsorship with their Major League Baseball (MLB) team counterparts, including the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins. All affiliated teams wear official MLB logos and uniforms and compete under their respective professional team’s logo.
According to the Wheelchair Sports Federation, the game is played under the official rules of the 16-inch slow pitch softball as approved by the Amateur Softball Association of America, with 15 exceptions that are geared toward the wheelchair user.

Call 1-833-QiLevel (745-3835) to talk to one of our associates today!

Request to be Contacted     Find a Local Dealer


Rather than a typical baseball field, players will compete on a hard surface, such as a blacktop or parking lot, although it is painted like a traditional baseball diamond and field. This is to provide easy maneuverability in a wheelchair. While traditional softball bases are 60 feet apart, they are 50 feet apart in adaptive softball, making for a mere 10-foot difference.

The Softball

Another difference between traditional and adaptive softball is the size of the softball. Softballs in adaptive softball are 16 inches, which permits wheelchair users that are playing the sport to keep one hand on the wheelchair while they catch the softball without a glove.

Softball Wheelchair

Sports wheelchairs are used in sports, such as adaptive soccer and adaptive softball, and are designed to help players make quick turns and reduce the likelihood of tipping over when maneuvering quickly on the field. They differ from traditional wheelchairs in that the wheels are angled about 20 degrees, (whereas a traditional wheelchair’s angle is two degrees), and they have anti-tips bars, or “wheelie bars,” on the backs of their chairs.

Classification System

Using the same classification system that is used for wheelchair basketball, teams are balanced by a point system. A team must not have players participating with a total of more than 22 points. A team must have at least ten players, with one or more of them being quadriplegic, to be able to start a game. The point values are as follows:

Quadriplegic (any) = 1 point
Class I = 1 point
Class II = 2 points
Class III = 3 points

If you are interested in learning more about adaptive softball for wheelchair users, the rules of the game or how you can participate or watch, check out resources on the following websites: