The Commonwealth Games are heading to Glasgow this year, with international athletes from around the globe eagerly making their last minute preparations. For para sport competitors, one major hurdle has already been overcome because Glasgow 2014 recognises that disabled athletes are not different and has fully integrated all para sport events with mainstream events. Equality at last!
Disappointing then, that this week Developmental Coordination Disorder, or dyspraxia to you and me, has been declassified by the British Swimming and Amateur Swimming Association (ASA); immediately disqualifying dozens of swimmers for the opportunity to compete.
Britain pioneered para sport. Stoke Mandeville was the birthplace of disabled events when Ludwig Guttman used sport to rehabilitate injured soldiers during the war. From there the Paralympics movement was born and has grown to include people with learning difficulties and those who present challenging behaviour.
Anyone who understands dyspraxia knows that it affects coordination and seriously hampers the ability of the individual to take part in sport. Training is restricted and therefore they are unable to compete against able bodied athletes; now they are even unable to compete against disabled athletes.
The legacy of London 2012 was supposed to be inclusivity. This ruling flies in the face of that legacy.
Here at ubu we have fought exclusion since we were established in 1984. Encouraging the people we serve to become integrated members of society, the core to our service model. uStep is based on the concept that the people we serve are at the heart of their own care and in control. By excluding certain members of society from being able to compete, the ASA is sending out a very strong message of prejudice and exclusion.
Many members of the Commonwealth have suffered prejudice, exclusion and persecution. Three things that helped form the basis for para sport. As the eyes of the Commonwealth are turned on Glasgow, we must make sure we set an example of pioneering inclusion for everyone.