by Dawna Callahan, Founder & CEO
All In Sport Consulting
It’s so exciting to see progress and positive strides across the movement within the past year – more TV coverage of the Paralympic Games, Toyota’s recent investment of $5M to Paralympians and Paralympic hopefuls, more inclusion of disabled athletes in various events, and so much more. This is all great news and we’re hopeful you have noted these positive strides and successes highlighted in the Industry RoundUP in our monthly newsletter!
I am grateful to all those who had the vision and put in the hard work to progress the movement to this exciting place. Still, I am reminded regularly that there is work to be done when it comes to equality for disabled athletes.
A few things I’ve noted around the industry recently:
- Representation Matters – When planning or participating in conference sessions focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), make sure panels actually include people with disabilities. I recently attended a session titled, “Giving a Voice to Those with Disabilities,” which initially failed to have any representation from the disability community! If we’re not including the disabled voice, we’re actually canceling out their voice entirely by not giving them the opportunity to authentically speak in representation of the disabled population.
- Make Sport a Priority for All Students – Please no excuses when explaining why it’s so difficult to get high school students with disabilities involved in sport. It may have been difficult identifying avenues and opportunities 15-20 years ago, but that’s no longer the case. Today, there are plenty of online resources, success stories, and contacts throughout the country to call on for help and guidance to ensure that students with disabilities do not miss out on the benefits and life lessons learned from sport and competition.
- Equality for Para Athletes – When seeing the medal podiums for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic & Paralympic Games, I was disappointed to see the Paralympic podium was flat, devoid of the typical three-leveled elevations for the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners. While being mindful of accessibility, we must also provide Paralympians the equal opportunity to have their moment on top of the podium celebrating their athletic success. One option would be to simply reuse the Olympic podium, swap out the logos, and build ramps along the back to access each level. There should not be disparity among Olympians and Paralympians and the way they are recognized for their athletic accomplishments.
These scenarios are just a few that have stood out in recent weeks. I know I’ve heard this before from others and know it to be true myself – living with a disability can be exhausting when these types of situations happen on a regular basis. And although I may not have been involved in these scenarios personally, they are personal and come with a sense of urgency to advocate and identify solutions that will hopefully elevate conversations that bring new and innovative opportunities for all athletes.
My goal is for All In Sport Consulting to continue its advocacy for athletes with disabilities and the movement in general. Our organization may be small, but the lived experience adds value to each and every conversation we have. This next year will be telling as we continue to encounter challenging conversations that impact athletes with disabilities and build on the momentum of recent progress.