2015 IPC World Swimming Championships

IPC2015_(1)Glasgow hosted the IPC World Swimming Championship this year, (13 – 19 July). More than 580 swimmers from nearly 70 countries converged in Glasgow to compete over seven days of competition at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre. It the Para-Swimmer’s one of the biggest qualification opportunities ahead of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

This was another fantastic opportunity for Glasgow to showcase Para-Sports at the elite level as the one year anniversary of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games approaches. Having been involved in the Para-Sports build-up towards Glasgow 2014, two years prior to the Commonwealth Games, staging the IPC World Swimming Championships was a catalyst for Glasgow to strengthen it reputation.

Glasgow also built on it formidable status as a host of international events, having hosted the 2013 Duel in the Pool and all six days of swimming at the Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow 2014 had accessibility, equality and inclusion as a core part of the Commonwealth Games function in relation to the Organising Committee. Tollcross underwent a major refurbishment in the lead up to Glasgow 2014 entwined with the sustainability and accessibility vision too. Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games has left a legacy, the culture change, perceptions change and a sustainable legacy of inclusion and accessibility within society.

The IPC 2015 World Championships we saw established Paralympians go head-to-head in some of the most compelling rivalries in para-sport.  It was exhilarating, captivating and new talent blossom as the popularity of the Paralympics continues following the impressive rise of Para-Sport coverage since London 2012.

I was incredibly fortunate to be a flag-bearer for Uzbekistan at the 2015 IPC World Swimming Championships’s Opening Ceremony. It was a pleasure to work closely with the IPC’s media team and the Media Operations manager.

Over the last eight days, having been involved with the IPC’s Media hub in Glasgow, it brought me a new and another chapter of emergence of where I am going next!

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TS-Sport Tries Out Angling

Social Care Ideas Factory runs an initiative called TS-Sport. Its aim is to promote disability sports opportunities and raise awareness of impact disability sports can have for those who have disabilities.

As part of series of taster sessions being drawn up by TS-Sport to allows those with disabilities to try out sports that they may not have otherwise considered pursuing recreationally or competitively due to a collective decisions that need to be considered.

The first partnership for TS-Sport got underway with the Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling, (SFCA) on Thursday 4th September 2014. Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling is the Scottish national governing body for the sport of Coarse Angling.  The federation was formed in 1960s and was set up with a founding commitment to protect the Coarse fishing stocks in Scotland. Moreover, the Angling Development Board was set up to encourage all members of society to give angling a try and hopefully through the Club Angling programme to take up the sport on a more regular basis.

personal_tssportIn July this year with inputs from Julie McElroy, TS-Sport explored what opportunities Angling can offer for people with disabilities. Ryan MacDonald, the Project leader for TS-Sport met with John Rae who is the Development Officer for Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling. Commenting on the initial partnership with Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling on behalf of TS-Sport, Ryan said “I met with John to discuss the possibilities of establishing opportunities for people with disabilities to try out Coarse Angling.  John’s enthusiasm made me think we could do something in partnership in an attempt to get more disabled people involved in coarse angling and as we’re always on the lookout for new taster sessions and this made sense”.

Angling is considered by many the largest participatory sport and recreational opportunity in the world. Angling by nature is reflected upon as a therapeutic sporting activity too as it enable anglers to take up the sport as a hobby rather than competitively. There are many commercial fishery were people can do Coarse fishing and along the River Clyde canal route and the Falkirk and Edinburgh’s canal offers the same opportunities to do Coarse fishing too. The sport of Angling open doors in many ways as John put it to me, it is also a relaxation sport which allows you to escape the busy domestic life and come and do some angling in an environment which offers peace and tranquillity.

Eight participants signed up for TS-Sport’s Angling session which is a credit to how many of them were keen to try out Angling. Many of whom were experiencing Angling for the first time. The session took place at a commercial fishery, Springwater Fishery in Dalrymple in Ayrshire. This is Ayrshire’s first commercial fishery for Coarse fishing which comprises of three lochs within a total area of twenty acres. The team were incredibly fortunate with a glorious sunny day which made the fishing venture all worthwhile.

Each fishery has its own jurisdiction. Coarse, Game and Sea fish stocks are handled differently by national and local regulatory bodies.

Springwater Fishery is viewed to be an accessible venue and John is keen to encourage more wheelchairs users to access Angling. The more people who use these facilities, the more there is a case to be heard to allows SFCA to improve its accessibility strand for people with disabilities.

As the group session got underway, there was a sense of competitive spirit starting to emerge between the boys and girls. It has to be said, the closer you are to the shallow end of the loch, the higher the chances of catching lots of Coarse fishes! Towards the end of the day, John reckoned the group has caught sixty Coarse fishes.

John was pleased with how the session went as he said “The first session was excellent as we were delivering to an adult group and because of this we as coaches felt more relaxed, we had a talk as always to see how we felt the session had gone and other than the rather poor fishing in some areas we as coaches had enjoyed the session. The owner of Springwater also had a chat with us and sees no reason why over the winter he cannot upgrade all the road side stances to suit wheelchair access, and would be willing to set aside these stances if any disabled person booked them”.  He went on to say how enjoyable it was working with TS-Sport, “I personally enjoyed my day, usually as the co-ordinator the best part of an event is after it is over and everything has passed uneventfully, but with the group I enjoyed my day more than usually”.

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The success of the session was further echoed by Martin McClaren who is also a coach said  “I have never found a group so enthusiastic and obviously keen to learn. As I tried to explain there are so many different methods and techniques, to try and incorporate any number at the start would not only confuse but could also deter someone new to angling”.

Reflecting on a very successful session for TS-Sport, Ryan praised the work of John Rae, John Jnr and Martin, saying “They were a credit to the SFCA. The advice, instructions and expertise from the team on the day was superb. Throughout the day the three men covered a fair distance up and down the side of the fishery, making sure everyone had the support they needed to have the best fishing experience possible. There was quite a bit of toing and froing involved in organising the event, and in the weeks leading up to it John was always available to answer any questions we had. He was only too willing to do anything he could to make the organisation of the event as smooth as possible”.

Looking towards the future of how Angling could be evolved around for people with disabilities, John and his team are hoping to work with TS-Sport in future to look at two avenues of work. Firstly, to look at creating a Scottish National disabled angling team that can one day compete internationally. Many who attended the event are keen to look at this.

So it looks like this is just the start of a very promising partnership for Scottish Federation of Coarse Angling and TS-Sport.

Conclusion of Google TechAbility

It is hard to believe that I was chosen for the Google TechAbility Mentoring Programme back in November 2012, just what I needed to retrieve guidance on where my career should lies or go.

The Google TechAbility Mentoring Programme has been an intensive and require a commitment from both people to work together to get the most out of the Google’s experience. I feel that I’ve exceeded that with Stephany Van Willigenburg. We were clear and passionate about getting the best out of each other.

It was a learning experience for both us as I gained a greater insight to how Google operates and what they can do and help clients and Stephany found herself learning about assistive technologies. (You never stop learning……………!)

Personally, I would like to thanks EmployAbility and Clare Bass, EMEA Diversity and Inclusion @ Google for making this happen and for opening me up to such a trustworthy contact to have.

Now, I feel proud to be classed as part of Google TechAbility Mentoring Programme Alumni. The rewards and hard work have paid off by celebrating my achievements. However, for me there is still more to come!

NTS Deliver Third Wilderness Project

Julie McElroy is back with another Wilderness Project. This follows on from the resounding success of the inaugural event in an innovative new programme, which aims to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space and develop a meaningful connection to the beautiful natural landscapes Scotland has to offer.

The Wilderness Weekend will also coincide with 2013 being the ‘Year of Natural Scotland’ which is being supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. It is about celebrating Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty in 2013! From stunning landscapes and iconic wildlife, to creative events and nature festivals, Scotland’s great outdoors is waiting for you.

In 2011, Julie and the NTS took 6 people to the beautiful Isle of Arran to experience the lush surroundings of the National Trust for Scotland’s Brodick property. In 2012, another eight participants were whisked off to Kintail, the home of beautiful West Highland scenery including the dramatic Falls of Glomach and the Five Sisters of Kintail- a magnificent range of high hills, where the group stayed at the Kintail Morvich Basecamp. Julie has once again teamed up with the NTS to serve up another helping of outdoor adventures, this time in connection with Ben Lomond on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond.

The project, due to take place from the 23rd to 27th of September will see disabled participants take part in a range of outdoor activities including a little taste of the kind of conservation work that is such an important aspect of the Trust’s work.

This time around we’ve raised the challenge, offering disabled participants the opportunity to camp out over night and complete the Discovery level of the John Muir Award. The John Muir Award had played an important part when Julie completed her top Conserver John Muir Award two years ago.

Julie is on the lookout for people to get involved in this exciting opportunity. Participants must be aged 18 – 25 and upwards and be able to commit to the full five days of the project.

Emily Sanderson, Community Partnerships Co-ordinator from the National Trust for Scotland said:
‘After the success of the previous two projects we are delighted to be working with Julie on another Wilderness project, this time at our stunning property, Ben Lomond. The Trust believes that its properties are ‘a place for everyone’ and we therefore relish the opportunity to continue to open our doors to an ever wider representation of Scotland’s community.

As a conservation organisation, we see our volunteering opportunities as a great way for people to contribute to conserving some of the most significant sites in the country’.

A keen adventurer, Julie was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was a child and is eager to help more people with disabilities experience the advantages of the outdoors.

She added:

“I have always had a love of the outdoors and I am thrilled to be back for the third time running this wilderness project. The third wilderness adventure will be more stimulating and interesting for the disabled participants.

“More importantly, we are offering disabled participants the opportunity to camp for one night as part of the experience and give them the opportunity to make a start on their John Muir Award Journey.”

Notes to news editors
1. The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to fund its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy. The Trust cares for a range of sites on Arran, including Brodick Castle and Country Park and Goatfell.

2. The John Muir Trust encourages people to experience wild places and to ‘put something back’ through the John Muir Award. Since 1997 more than 130,000 awards has been achieved. For more information go to http://www.johnmuiraward.org

3. 2013 is Year of Natural Scotland, (Scottish Natural Heritage and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park are strong partners) http://www.snh.gov.uk/enjoying-the-outdoors/year-of-natural-scotland-2013/

Cardonald College Fellowship

It was a memorable day for the graduates of Cardonald College 2012 on Friday 2nd November as they celebrate their hard work and success throughout the academic session of 2011/2012. It was an incredible day and to see such a diverse range of students graduate on this occasion.

I had the privileged in joining the graduates at this Graduation ceremony to be awarded the Fellowship of College which is a prestigious accolade to accept. However, I must emphasized that it was Cardonald that gave me the leap forward and transform my life around and I now hold Cardonald in the highest regards.

Now that I’ve been made a Fellow of Cardonald, I look forward to joining the other fellows and the board of management in promoting Cardonald at the heart of the education in Scotland and beyond.

I will still continue to offer my expertise and share my journey through life with students at Cardonald College with a vision of drive, motivation and passion.

Lastly, I would like to acknowledge the involvement of the marketing department for the preparation and hard work they’ve put into the Fellowship award along with Fellowship documentary.

Congratulations to the Graduates of 2012.

Cardonald College’s Website www.cardonald.ac.uk

Cardonald Fellowship Documentary click here

Wilderness Reunion

It has been four months ago since the Wilderness project took place in Kintail earlier this year and it was resounding success as the participants bonded extremely well. As a result, the group wanted a reunion for the autumn so we all pulled together to deliver a fantastic reunion down in the Scottish Borders on Saturday 27th October.

After months of planning the logistics with fellow participants, the realization of this reunion was in full swing.

It was a fantastic reunion and we were gracious with absolutely fabulous weather and beautiful scenery in the Scottish Borders. I can perhaps understand why people who live down there like the peace and tranquility in the area. At times, I felt I was in a different part of the world.

Susan, a Ranger, from the Scottish Borders Trust was fantastic and made our day far more interesting. She delivered a bio-diversity trail and tree management session. We had a jammed packed day which was highly echoed by everyone.

It is so rewarding to see that we have fulfilled in reuniting for a reunion.

Finally, we were truly blessed with weather and a nice way to round off the summertime.

Photos below:

Second Wilderness Experience Success

The second disabled wilderness experience has taken place following the innovative outdoor project on Arran last year. The ‘Wilderness Weekend’ introduces disabled people to woodlands and green space.

The Disabled Wilderness experience took place in Kintail (19th – 22nd June 2012). Kintail encompasses 17,422 acres of beautiful West Highland scenery and includes the dramatic Falls of Glomach and the Five Sisters of Kintail. At 113 m (370 ft), the Falls of Glomach is one of the highest waterfalls in Britain, and is set in a steep narrow cleft in remote country. The Five Sisters of Kintail is a magnificent range of high hills. Four of the peaks are over 915m (3000 ft) high.

The brainchild of this project was Julie McElroy who has Cerebral Palsy has resulted in walking difficulties, speech and hearing impairment along with manual dexterity problems. Despite this, she has led an active life. Julie was inspired to initiate this project to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space.
Group at Kintail

Delivered in partnership by The National Trust for Scotland they worked with Scottish adventuress Julie McElroy to develop the second Wilderness Experience, which saw the group taking part in a range of outdoor activities including sea-kayaking, conservation work of tree planting and environmental arts.

Robert May, Community Partnerships Coordinator and Julie were joined by the supported staff of the National Trust for Scotland: Willie Fraser and Rule Anderson and volunteers’ staff, John Kellas and Jeanette Gray.

The Community Partnerships delivers environmental projects within the communities to all strands of equality, diversity & inclusion.

This wilderness project is designed to enhance the confidence of the participants and also increase their personal development, by allowing them the chance to take part in a series of tasks and adventures that they haven’t before. Also by helping raise awareness of the importance wild places and wild land for peoples health and well-being, the need to inspire more people to enjoy them (able bodied or disabled)”