Conference challenged to be more inclusive of disabled people

Our ODI staff challenged a sporting conference in Wellington this week to think about all the different ways to be more inclusive of disabled people.

The Nuku Ora regional conference 2022  explored the topics of integrity and inclusion in sport, so the group from Whaikaha made a strong contribution to the conference. The conference brought together leading people from the sporting sector from across the Wellington region.

The panel of our staff spoke on their experiences in sport as disabled people, from a range of participation perspectives including as a competitor, coach, administrator or scorer. This underscored the point that there are many ways in which disabled people can be included in sport.

ODI staff appearing on a panel - Matt, Sarah, Josh, Brian (standing), Pauline and Darryl

The panel (facilitated by ODI Director Brian Coffey (standing)) consisted of (from left to right):

  • Matt Frost
  • Sarah Fuhrer
  • Josh Fuimaono
  • Pauline Melham
  • Simon England
  • Darryl Alexander

Brian, who was part of a session later on inclusive environments for disabled people, says the panel was well received and had a significant impact.

“A good turn-out from the sport and recreation sector heard about the diversity of sport and recreation participation – what works for inclusion and participation, the value of participation in sport and recreation, that participation takes many forms, and the barriers to participation and inclusion,” Brian said.

Context for the panel

Quoting from Whaikaha CE Paula Tesoriero's tribute to Sir Murray Halberg , Brian commented on the recent passing of Sir Murray Halberg and his role in advocating for disabled people to participate in sport to set the perfect context for the panel.

In her message, which resonated with the conference, Paula said: “Sir Murray was ahead of his time. He was promoting inclusion in sport ahead of the right to participate in sport being enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He knew that additional funding, innovation and time were needed to provide sporting opportunities to disabled young people. And he spent much of his life devoted to doing just this.

“We all know there are universal benefits of sport for everyone, but there are additional ones in my view for disabled young people. Sport changes perceptions about disability, helps with social cohesion in classrooms, and when accessible it means disabled young people are not on the sidelines. It creates inclusion through being part of a team.

“Over the years I have heard and witnessed first-hand so many wonderful stories about Sir Murray's work. His dedication meant things like disabled siblings riding a bike to school together because the Foundation funded an adaption to a bike; a disabled child could go to their local sports club because the Foundation helped the club be more accessible, or get access to a chair to play wheelchair rugby. I have seen the expression on the faces of disabled children and their parents when they have a go at a sport they never thought possible.  Sir Murray's work brought the vision of the social model of disability to life before we were even really embracing it.”

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