The London 2012 Paralympics will be a fantastic celebration, not just of sport, but of disabled people themselves. This should be a transformational moment for disabled people in this country but the hard work will need to continue long after the event. The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) is committed to playing its part in ensuring a true legacy from the games, with many more disabled people getting active, staying active and being more confident in themselves.
A far greater media profile of disabled people will be one of the key benefits of London 2012 Paralympic Games, with Channel 4 promising more coverage than ever before. We cannot begin to quantify the huge impact that so many positive images of disability will have on the self-esteem and body confidence of disabled people, who are still largely overlooked and under-represented in the mainstream media.
Channel 4 deserves credit for the way they have embedded their passion for the Games throughout their whole delivery strategy in creating the 'Superhumans' campaign showcasing the athletes abilities and unique stories to the world, but also driving inclusion throughout their own organisation and planning.
You will be able to spot our own promotional "Pass the Baton" campaign across London Underground stations during the Paralympic period. A striking poster of a disabled athlete amplifies the strapline - Sport is for all. And we believe this should be the case beyond 2012. It promotes our charity status too, as without fundraising and sponsorship we will not be able to achieve our vision for disabled people to be active for life.
With such a prestigious showcase of talent on home soil from 29 August until 9 September, we also know that both disabled and non-disabled people will be inspired to take part in more inclusive opportunities. As the national sports body for disabled people in England, the EFDS, champions opportunities for disabled people to enjoy sport, supporting the sport and physical activity sectors to be more inclusive.
Our vision is that disabled people are active for life. To achieve this, one of our goals will be supporting more disabled people in different ways to realise the benefits of being active. This support should be available at whatever level they choose as only a small minority can take part in or reach Paralympic level.
For many spectators of the Paralympics, it will be about breaking down barriers in the perceptions of disabled people and towards them. This is a huge area of concern as recent EFDS research has shown. Our recent research identified three key barriers to participation for disabled people- physical, logistical and psychological.
Psychological barriers came out as the biggest problem in relation to attitudes, opinions and perceptions preventing participation in sport. This is something we intend to work alongside partners to change, shaping our work through insight to be evidence-led by what disabled people want and need in sport and physical activity.
Our team is working hard to promote the importance of inclusion and equality in sport for disabled people. We want to ensure we not only make the 2012 Paralympics a success for Britain, but create a sustainable legacy for everyone to embrace sport and physical activity as part of their everyday life. This legacy takes shape through our programmes which provide a platform for creating opportunities and role models for all disabled people young and old alike, grass roots participation and a competitive pathway.
Playground to Podium (P2P) provides a means of identifying and supporting potentially talented young disabled athletes. It has also enabled the development of an infrastructure to support more young disabled people to engage, remain and excel within sport. EFDS's events programme organised by Disability Sports Events has nurtured talent and we are proud that two renowned National Junior Athletics Champions and who were spotted through the Playground to Podium Initiative; Sophie Kamlish and Jamie Carter will be representing Team GB in the London 2012 Paralympic Games and are now important role models for other young disabled people.
Our physical activity element within the organisation Inclusive Fitness funded by the Department of Health leads the way in providing accessible exercise provision and in addressing sedentary behaviour amongst disabled people. The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) has been established for over 10 years, with a national coverage of 400 IFI Mark accredited gym facilities. It is recognised that the IFI Mark is fundamental in addressing inequality in physical activity, to reach inactive populations and raise awareness of the benefits of exercise.
We have recently developed a promotional marketing campaign for Inclusive Fitness with positive body imagery of disabled people exercising, as we are aware that one of the barriers to participation is the under representation of disabled people within marketing and service provision and the psychological barriers this creates. The Paralympics provide an unparalleled opportunity to tackle this issue, to transform the way many disabled people see themselves, and to inspire more disabled people to take up sport. All of us - sports bodies, the fitness industry, the media - must work together to realise that potential and ensure a lasting legacy from this amazing festival of sport.