This summer the Birmingham Commonwealth Games was a global standard bearer for accessibility in sport, with the largest ever parasports offering to date.
Unlike the Paralympic Games and other major sporting events, the parasport programme at the Commonwealth Games is fully integrated, with para-athletes contributing to their nation’s overall medal tally. This is sporting inclusivity in practice and I hope progression in this area will be the enduring legacy of the Games.
Like many of you watching the Games on TV I was wowed by the superhuman achievements of our athletes. Of course, it is not just the athletes who make these events such a success. The organising team behind the Games should also receive immense credit for making them accessible for both athletes and supporters, as well as their ongoing efforts to grow grassroots sport, where athletes and para-athletes who might one day represent their country, can grow in skill and ability.
Community sports clubs have a vital role to play in this work and on a recent visit to Wales I met two fantastic organisations championing inclusivity.
Anglesey Hawks Wheelchair Basketball Club in Holyhead and the Anglesey Group of Ynys Mon Riding for The Disabled are two wonderful examples of the power of sport to change lives and it was inspiring to hear their stories of triumph in the face of adversity, as well as the benefits to the wider community of truly inclusive clubs.
Disabled people deserve the same opportunities as everyone else and I urge all sporting organisations and clubs, big or small, to be more inclusive of everyone in their wider community.
Beyond sport, indeed in all facets of life we as a government are striving to create a more inclusive and accessible society. Accessibility is key in continuing our progress in creating a truly inclusive and equal society that works for disabled people.
When the British Sign Language Act passed into law in April it was a momentous day for the Deaf community, with BSL recognised as an official language in England, Scotland and Wales for the first time.
Another key part of the Act was the commitment to create a BSL Advisory Board to advise the Government on key issues impacting the Deaf community, such as how to increase the number of BSL interpreters.
I am pleased to say recruitment for the dual language board is underway and is just another way we are helping to remove barriers faced by Deaf people in daily life.
The passion and commitment I have seen from athletes, community leaders and law makers over the past few months is an inspiration as we continue to strive for a more accessible Britain.
Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium has undergone a £72 million redevelopment, making it fully accessible for spectators and sportspeople, including specialist seating and Changing Place facilities.
Additionally, more than £13 million has been pledged to support community sports development across the country following the Games. It is my hope this gives the platform to encourage even more disabled people to get involved in sport. Exercise can have a transformative effect on both your physical and mental health and there are huge benefits from ensuring there is equal access for everyone.