Mark is a sports development officer with the Irish Wheelchair Association in Dublin. His ethos is full inclusion as much as can be possibly achieved for all regardless of disability. This he feels comes from Disability Awareness Training and inclusive funding initiatives. What an inspirational and motivational young man.
Tell me about your experience of being physically active
- I’ve been physically active since very young. I first got involved in Disability Sport at the age of 7 years of age.
What activities/sport/exercise do you do?
At present, I play Wheelchair Basketball. I enjoyed all sports as a child including PE in Primary and Secondary School. I also enjoy pushing Dun Laoghaire Pier. My main sport was competitive Wheelchair Racing when I was younger.
How did you get active?
- I was introduced to IWA-Sport at the age of 7.
What are some good/positive experiences?
- Friendships, maintaining a level of physical fitness, Camaraderie, Travel
- Pressure to succeed, disappointment, expectation v reality
If you could describe your experience in one word, what would it be?
- That’s a difficult question which I’m unable to answer in one word. My sporting experience has been both positive and negative.
What does being physically active mean to you?
- Sport and physically activity has been a part of my life since my youth. Amongst other life experiences, It is also because of sport and physical activity that I got the opportunity to work, live, travel independently etc.
Why do you take part?
- Fun and Competition and to test limitations that others have set for me or to test the limitations that I would have perceived exist.
What do you enjoy about it?
- I take part to stay as fit as possible. I enjoy the social aspect of sport and meeting new people, many of whom I’ve made lifelong friendships.
If you met someone who had never taken part in anything before, what would you tell them, and why would you tell them they should start?
- I would encourage them to at least take the opportunity to engage in a new activity for the first time. If they enjoy it, great and if not, maybe that’s not for them but perhaps there is an activity for that person. If not, that’s okay too as sport and physical activity is not for everyone.
Tell me if you encountered any challenges in participating in sport or physical activity?
- Yes, plenty of challenges. Some positive and some negative.
What makes participating in sport/physical activity difficult? –
- Funding, Physical and Attitudinal Access Issues, Resources of people and Capital Resources. Preconceived perceptions, Negative Myths about inclusion.
What could people do better?
Increased profile of underpopulated demographic would help a lot. That’s to say an increase in profile of Persons with Disabilities in the Media as positive role models. A positive role model can be anyone. Whilst it’s great to see Paralympians etc, it would also be great to see more people with disability doing what many others consider ordinary – go to school, make friends, work, go to the gym, raise their family, go to college, socialise, become leaders etc. Also, I would like to see more representation in politics, TV, Theatre, Sport etc. so as to raise more profile in the area of inclusion. They are many amazing role models with a disability who are unfortunately doing great work but because of their disability, sometimes this does not get fair coverage in mainstream.
To what extent are people with disabilities able to engage in physical activity and sports of their choice?
- I think the opportunity to engage is better than ever before but naturally there is always room for improvement. However, I would say that if a person with a disability wishes to get involved in a specific sport or physical activity, there is ample opportunity for this to progress irrespective of disability and location of individual. It is not possible for any of us to participate in all levels of sport and recreation but I believe it is possible to find a sport and/or recreational activity suited to specific needs of individual. Ireland is changing and there is lots of positive examples of this across the country.
If you wanted to be more/begin to be active, what would help you?
I think awareness of opportunity –Disability Sport NGB’s Mainstream NGB, Sports Development Officers, Sports Inclusion Disability Officers, Local Sport’s Partnerships, Inclusive Sports Clubs, Inclusive Leisure Centres etc. – they all exist and are normally within typing an e-mail correspondence or picking up the phone.
What would make participating in sport/physical activity easier for you? –
- More Resources on the ground that wish to become inclusive in their approach. I believe this is the same mantra for mainstream and Disability NGB’s.
What more must be done to ensure constant progress towards everybody being active?
- The ethos of NGB’s must be directed towards full inclusion as much as can be possibly achieved. This also comes from Disability Awareness Training and Criteria for Inclusive Funding initiatives.
What is your wish list for sports and physical activity?
- As close to full inclusion as possible.
If you could change one thing, what would that be?
- Increased Profile and Increased Disability Sport, Activity and Inclusive Initiative Funding (Two Things – Sorry)
If you could tell providers one thing, what would it be?
- Look at your peers that have steered themselves towards inclusion programmes – it works, it feels good, it’s the right direction.
What would be the perfect situation for you now?
- Full or near to full inclusion as possible.