INCLUSION and diversity are words that are used frequently these days, but while they are easy to say, they are not always easy to put into practice. This is not a criticism, rather it is a reality and can stem from a lack of awareness and knowledge. But that doesn’t mean things don’t change and we’ve come a long way since I started my career in sports administration.
One piece of good news that caught my eye is the opening of a gymnasium in Straiton, Midlothian, which focuses on people living with disabilities or long-term health conditions. Sitting outside of what is known as the “mainstream” can be a lonely place, not just for an individual but for their family, who can sometimes feel lost trying to find suitable interests that can accommodate his relatives.
Will Perry, who swam for ParalympicsGB in the S6 100m freestyle at Tokyo 2020, highlighted how difficult everyday life can be. He told how people laugh and stare at him on the street and take pictures of him without his permission.
Will has dwarfism, which affects around 7,000 people in the UK. I can’t begin to imagine the upheaval this kind of behavior causes, or what pleasure the perpetrators derive from these senseless actions.
We have amazing Paralympians in Scotland, Maria Lyle and Kayleigh Haggo to name just two, but we need more coverage of the opportunities for people with disabilities and also to highlight and create strong models of visible role.
Last year, for the first time, Scottish Women in Sport presented a separate award for para-athletes, which was won by the incredible Aileen McGlynn.
Scottish Disability Sport does an amazing job, not only with elite athletes, but also with those who want to make friends, have fun and get fit.
I had the pleasure of working with them last year, promoting boccia for Scottish Women’s and Girls’ Sports Week and met several young women who were in wheelchairs. All had a great day and were looking to register regularly.