Thomas Williams - Disability Consultant: Insights September 2016


TWA RGBAt the time of writing, we are only days away from the XXXI Olympiad, and MEI has asked me to consider the difficulties and lack of perceived opportunities with organising committees of major sporting events, both engaging and inspiring the disabled workforce (paid and volunteer) as we, as members of the MEI community, are trying to engage with OC’s.


The first issue is requiring the organising committee to imbue disability planning in all functional areas at bid conception.  This will then hold them (or should do) to account, giving them benchmarks to build up to when conceiving elements of the creation of a successful bid.  In London, the tag line was “Inspire a generation”, as approximately 20% of the UK population is disabled, a large proportion of the measure of whether they would succeed in completing their mantra would be to endeavour to include the disabled when designing strategies and physical plans, thus making sure that it would be successful come the Games.  Days after winning the bid, as a mark of their intentions, all heads of departments signed a diversity pledge that included the following, “* I will hire talented disabled people”.  This to me showed their clear intentions.


London was arguably the most reasonably developed previous winning host city with the ability to be able to achieve this; I don’t discredit any earlier games, but a workforce including the disabled wasn’t obvious until 1992, as far as my research goes.  Other Games and cities, will have to look to develop on London, but my feeling is that they will have to reframe their way of thinking especially around the major areas that the disabled will be used within the workforce.  However, planning for this seems, in my opinion, to take place in the 18 to 24 months prior to the Games.  In my opinion, this needs to be engaged with at the same time as any host cities’ contracts or pledges are signed as this allows functional planning, application role assignment and interview processes to be considered with the disabled in mind, which will lead to changes in how the different stadium designs, ceremony and actual events, for example, will integrate the disabled into their teams, I hope as well as the products and services we are hoping to sell to them.  But of course, the most important thing however is to create a safe spectacular sporting event that portrays the host country in as positive light as it can.  Therefore, the planning for the disabled workforce may inevitably come lower down the list of priorities.  But by engaging the disabled, I feel that an organising committee can tap into many different perspectives that can challenge future OC’s.


Targets/guidance exist for many areas; security, accreditation, ceremony design, eco/green issues, sustainability and legacy.  The integration of the disabled, workforce and spectator as well as competitor, should be considered as one of the pillars of guidance.  How are we as members going to influence OC’s and the likes of the IOC and IPC and raise their perception of the potential audience and attributes of the disabled as part of the whole population.  We need to make sure that disability is as an important a target for the host city as any other, set by the awarding body, and one for which it is held accountable.


Lima Team small

Lastly recently I met the Lima team at the International Festival for Business 2016 and was incredibly pleased with their ethos around disabled employment and volunteerism.  


*Quote taken from the appendices of Steven Frost’s “Inclsion Imperative”, the LOCOG Leadership Pledge.

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