With the spotlight once again on elite disability athletes with the 2014 Commonwealth Games, our Youth Zones are fighting to make sure all young people with disabilities get A Level Playing Field when it comes to accessing fully inclusive sport.
Every Commonwealth Games since Manchester 2002 has been an integrated event with disabled sportsmen and women competing at the same locations at the same time as their able-bodied colleagues.
But it is a very different story for many young disabled people.
Paralympian and TV presenter Rachael Latham champions our A Level Playing Field project and speaking at our recent Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons to raise awareness about inclusive sport, she said: “In five years’ time, I would hope that there is a Youth Zone in every borough in the country, so that not just young people from the North West are able to participate with able-bodied and disabled kids, but everyone has the same opportunity. It should be A Level Playing Field across the country.”
At our Youth Zones, every child, whatever their ability, is able to take part in every activity — from football to climbing.
Watch these video Interviews with Jack Straw MP, Paralympian Rachael Latham, John Inverdale, Youth Zone staff and others at the Parliamentary reception about why they feel our A Level Playing Field Project is so important:
Christina Rhoney attends Bolton Lads and Girls Club Youth Zone and is a wheelchair user. She told MPs, members of the House of Lords including Baroness Grey-Thompson, and business leaders at the event: “Going to the club made me feel not weird. I just want to make friends and be like everyone else.”
Lucy Burke, mother of Danny, 13, who has autism and attends Manchester Youth Zone in Harpurhey, said: “After one trial session elsewhere, we were told in front of Danny: “You have to want to work with children like that,” and he was a health and safety risk. That they think it is legitimate to treat a young person with such brutal disregard, is shocking but all too familiar to parents of disabled children.
“A Level Playing Field offers disabled young people the opportunity to meet, socialise and do their own thing with their non-disabled peers – it views them as young people first. This is so simple and so important but, sadly, very unusual.”