This week we have all been on the edge of our seats watching the first ever Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup. Twelve teams from ten countries involving nearly 400 players have been competing and demonstrating that having a disability is no longer a justified barrier to participation in sports.
Bradford’s Bumble Bees RFU team have been the driving force behind the tournament and some of the men we serve (it’s not that diverse, they don’t let our girls in yet) have been involved with the club, watching and training.
ubu knows only too well how important it is to take care of yourself and the role that sport and physical activity can play in achieving that. Sadly, only too often, people with learning or physical disabilities find themselves excluded from these kinds of events.
This unique Rugby World Cup event has been organised by the Mixed Ability Sport Council. It offers a very different approach from the Paralympic movement in that it works on the premise that anyone could be disabled. There is also no ‘grading’ of ability or disability in Mixed Ability Sport as there is in the Paralympic movement. The Mixed Ability Sport Council focusses not on what a person is unable to do but rather on what they are able or could be able to do. ubu gives that idea a big thumbs up because it is completely in keeping with our ethos. We believe that if you treat a person as they are, they will stay as they are. But if you treat a person as they could be they will become who they should be.
Professional coaches have been working with the participant players, guiding them from being complete beginners to taking part in full contact rugby against experienced and fully abled players – Ouch! But their mentoring model works and it proves that people with learning disabilities are no more likely to suffer injury nor be unable to participate on the rugby pitch than their able bodied team mates.
And another great thing about the International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS) programme is the team spirit and feeling of inclusion it creates. Sport is a motivator for many people, but there are plenty of other benefits the Mixed Ability Rugby World Cup seeks to develop. The founders are determined to dispel the myth that disabled people cannot participate in sport. Most significantly they are committed to raising disability awareness in the wider community.
IMAS recognise that it is time to dismiss outdated attitudes which encouraged the belief that when disability is hidden out of sight, people can keep it out of mind. At ubu we hope this is the start of something much bigger for mixed ability sport and for learning disabled adults. We’ve always advocated inclusion and encouraged the people we serve to challenge prejudice and exclusion. This and similar events planned for the future are beginning to produce a welcome momentum and boost of energy to participation by people with disabilities in all kinds of sport and physical activity.
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