Inspiring activity

Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock MBE and ParalympicsGB launch hub to inspire disabled people to be more active.

I was excited to learn that ParalympicsGB and double Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock, with the support of Toyota, have recently launched a new online hub to help disabled people become more active.

Parasport connects disabled people to opportunities to be active, increases awareness of activities through listings, and challenges attitudes to disability and activity by providing information and inspiration.

One of the hub’s many plus points is that in creating an online community, it connects disabled people looking for a more active life to like-minded folk. 

The key message is that there is always hope – and an active, fulfilled life is part of that.

I was also heartened to see a big brand like Toyota offering their support. Toyota is already an important supporter of the Paralympics with their Mobility for All campaign, which says that freedom of movement is a basic right for everyone, regardless of disability or ability.

Inclusive attitudes championed by high-profile names are vital in inspiring disabled people to get active, as well as to challenge an outmoded focus on what people aren’t able to do.

This desire to empower was one of the founding principles of my charity Kit Us Out, providing sports gear to para-athletes in the developing world to compete on a level playing field. 

Inspired by my volunteering experience at the London Paralympics in 2012, I got together with a couple of others to provide kit for para-athletes, at first on a small scale.

The concept was so well-received that the charity has ended up linking with high-profile global events, helping para-athletes all over the world to achieve their full potential.

The positivity we have encountered as a charity, and the advent of initiatives such as Parasport, confirm that society is more than ready for a change in perspective.

It’s as much about normalising activity for those with a disability as anything else. 

According to Disability Sport most disabilities are acquired later in life and 80 per cent of older adults are disabled, so this issue will affect most of us directly.

On the one hand, we know that disabled people do not participate in – or do not have access to – physical activities. Sports England’s most recently published Active Lives report tells us that inactivity is twice as common for disabled people (42 per cent) than those who are able-bodied (21 per cent), although this trend is very slowly reversing.

But increasingly, stories of para-athletes who have triumphed against the odds provide inspiration. Swimmer Ellie Simmonds OBE, cyclist Dame Sarah Storey and athlete Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson are household names now, and rightly so.

And with every event involving para-athletes – the Paralympics, The Invictus Games – the list gets longer and longer.

While not everyone is aiming to be a para-athlete, the chance to take part in regular, physical activity without inhibiting attitudes should be the norm for all. This is the reasoning behind my fervent support of Parasport, indeed any initiative that opens doors for the disabled. Long may it continue!

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