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London Debates Impact of Paralympics on Improved Access to Sport for Disabled (June 15, 2012)

Local London media outlet, Channel 4 News, has publicly raised the question many are asking: Will August’s Paralympic Games in London increase access to sport for the disabled? One charity interviewed on the subject states that children through England still have “huge problems” accessing opportunities to play and compete. Barriers that affect those opportunities range from lack of specialized equipment to transportation issues and, even more concerning, lack of self-confidence in the kids’ own abilities.

Ruth Own, CEO of Whizz-Kidz, a London-area non-profit explains, “I think it’s fantastic London has won the Paralympics and Olympics and I think it’s a great opportunity to raise awareness – it will be a hugely missed opportunity if we don’t grasp that and make sporting facilities accessible to disabled children and young people. There’s still much more we can do … children who come to Whizz-Kidz don’t have the opportunities through school and local communities and we need to improve that moving on from the Paralympics.”

The British Paralympic Association has been proactive with this issue designing a full strategic plan publicly announce on Tuesday entitled “Maximizing Momentum”. The plan outlines various goals set in place to to boost sport access over the next five years utilizing the popularity of the 2012 games to leverage its efforts.

“We are ruthlessly focused on our preparations for 2012, we must also be ready to maximise the opportunities that will flow from the games,” Tim Hollingsworth, the association’s chief executive, said.

Hollingsworth then added, “So what we’re trying to show, not just financially, but in terms of ambition and scale and strategy is that people feel there is real momentum behind the Paralympics as a result of having a home games.” It is on that momentum that they hope to build a long-lasting effort to change the current realities of disabled sports and in doing so unite a greater community of partners and supporters.

As part of the plan’s strategy, individuals and organizations will be able to bid for the opportunity to turn their ideas into reality, making this a multifaceted grassroots campaign. Sport England’s chief executive, Jennie Price, said: “It is an uncomfortable truth that disabled people enjoy fewer opportunities to get involved in sport. Sport England is committed to changing that, and making it easier for disabled people to fit sport into their daily lives. The Paralympic Games will put the
sporting achievements of disabled people in the spotlight as never before. I want to make sure that Sport England’s £8m lottery investment is a catalyst to help more disabled people get involved.”

For more information on the British Paralympic Association (BPA), visit: http://www.paralympics.org.uk/

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