The Evening Times ParaSports movement of Glasgow 2014 has captured the debate beyond Glasgow, even further afield than Scotland to London and Developing Countries across the World.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the Minister (MP) Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (PUSS) for International Development in March this year. Lynne is championing Disability Rights for those in developing countries. Within her portfolio sits Violence Against Women and the Disability portfolio.
One of the reasons why Lynne Featherstone, the Minister for the Department for International Development (DFID) was keen to visit Glasgow because many disabled athletes from developing countries from Commonwealth Countries will descend in Glasgow to complete in the Commonwealth Games. For many of them, they will embrace the celebratory atmosphere that the Commonwealth’s motion brings.
Lynne and I toured the Emirates Arena and Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. We met Gordon McCormack who is currently employed as Senior Co-ordinator to Disabled Sports within Glasgow City Council and he is also Chair of Scottish Disability Sport and Johnathan Shaw, the General Manager of the Emirates Arena who talked about the unique building and the benefits to the citizens of Glasgow and beyond. Lynne was struck by how dedicated the organisers of Glasgow 2014 are to making sure the Games deliver for people with disabilities.
Glasgow 2014 will feature the biggest ever number of Para-Sport medal events in the history of the Commonwealth Games – 22 in total, spanning five sports. The Commonwealth Games offer a great opportunity to raise the profile of issues facing people living with disabilities both in the UK and across developing countries. The visit was an opportunity to see how preparations for the Games are progressing and to meet those with insights on improving access and equality for people living with disabilities.
Lynne also highlighted the pledged that any school construction supported directly by DFID allows disability access, when currently almost 90 per cent of children living with disabilities in Africa do not regularly attend schools. People with disabilities in Scotland must consider themselves fortunate to have access to education and technology to help them learn. Technology has been a lifeline to many including myself in developed countries. In stark contrast to when I visited the slum of Dehli a few years ago, it was heart-breaking seeing many disabled children couldn’t write despite being given one piece of paper.
Her visit coincide with another interesting landmark as it appears that disability was not specifically addressed in the Millennium Development Goals, UN initiative which conclude in 2015. Now there is a push to mark disability on the international agenda and recognise it in post-2015 development plans.
It was evident that Lynne and I shared the same passion for the ParaSports being endorsed in Glasgow. The Games will be a source of inspiration for people with disabilities not only in Glasgow, but across the world.
International Development Minster, Lynne Featherstone commented
“Campaigners like Julie McElroy are doing a great job in keeping disability issues on the agenda. The Evening Times deserves credit for giving people with disabilities a voice across the city. In the world’s poorest countries people with disabilities are often the most vulnerable, that is why the UK is pushing hard to put disability at the heart of the post Millennium Development Goals agenda.”