While the news is buzzing with stories of the London 2012 Olympic Games, London is also looking forward to the 2012 Paralympic Games which start in less than 3 weeks. London has sold the most tickets for a Paralympic Games – a record 2.1 million surpasses the previous record of 1.8 million tickets sold for the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games.
The slogan for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games is ‘Inspire a Generation’ and part of this vision is to turn London into the most accessible Games ever for athletes and spectators. There are approximately 1.2 million disabled people living in London (equivalent to almost one in six or 16% of the total population) and between 8-10% of total London 2012 visitors will have mobility needs. Train platforms have been widened, buses will be low-floored and be more accessible to wheelchairs, all river piers will have ramps and more than 8,250 London buses have been fitted with the new iBus system to help visually and hearing impaired and those unfamiliar with London.
I have really enjoyed watching the Olympic Games but I am really looking forward to the Paralympic Games. Training for the Olympic Games is tough, fact. It takes patience, dedication, belief, endurance, physical and mental training too. But imagine training with an amputee, cerebral palsy (a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions), visual impairment, spinal cord injuries, intellectual disabilities or another disability.
In preparation for the Games, Boris Johnson said: “I urge all London businesses, including shops, restaurants and hotels to start thinking now about they can make their goods and services as accessible as possible in time for and to reap the benefits of the 2012 Games.”
But let us not just think about accessibility to prepare for the games, but the lasting legacy. The London 2012 Paralympic Games is an opportunity for businesses across the globe to think about disabilities and whether they can do more to support and attract people with disabilities:
- Across the globe, Government offices, businesses and other places open to the public are required to ensure disabled persons have full and equal access to their property, goods and services. Can we make our offices even friendlier for people with disabilities, for example the tools and systems we use?
- Are we really doing enough in our efforts to attract people with disabilities and to help them acquire new skills
- In the UK alone, there are currently 1.3 million disabled people who are available and want to work.*
- Only half of disabled people of working age are in work (50%), compared with 80% of non-disabled people*
- 23% of disabled people have no qualifications compared to 9% of non-disabled people*
- Do we talk enough about disabilities or is it a taboo subject? How does this make our employees with disabilities feel?
In 20 days, the world will come together once again to watch our inspirational Paralympic athletes compete in the Games. But let us not just watch; let us come together, discuss and inspire within our own businesses and sphere of influences.
- One day the price of an Olympic ticket will equal the price of a Paralympic Ticket
- One day Para (meaning alongside so parallel) will truly be equal to the Olympic Games
- One day we will fulfil dreams and overcome the challenges and frustrations of people with disabilities.
* Data taken from http://www.dlf.org.uk/content/key-facts