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Disabled sporting goals more attainable than ever

This opinion piece is almost 3 years old

Michael McEwan on a big summer of inclusive sporting achievement

This year is - at last! – a big summer of sports, with the pandemic-delayed 2020 events – the Euros , Olympics and Paralympics.

Disability sports coverage in particular on TV continues to raise awareness and knock down the barriers to sports faced by aspiring athletes, encouraging viewers to see their ability not their disability.

Taking part in sport helps build both mental and physical health, build confidence and a good way to meet new people.

At London 2012 at the Paralympics, Channel 4 lead the way, delivering over 150 hours of coverage of the games. More broadcasts were beamed to over 100 countries, reaching a cumulative audience of 3.8 billion people. For me that was a life changing moment.

It reaffirmed my views that we focus on ability and not disability.

When surveyed after the events, one in three people in the UK changed their attitude on people with an impairment, with 65% agreeing the games delivered a breakthrough in the way people with an impairment are viewed.

Channel 4 will continue to highlight para-sports at this year's games in Tokyo, hosting 300 hours of round the clock coverage, another groundbreaking commitment as over 70% of Channel 4’s presenting team are disabled.

More 4 will be the dedicated team sports channel, while a Paralympics microsite will feature 16 live streams and over 1,000 hours, a first from UK broadcaster.

I would like to see other channels follow suit and to show individual sports. In an encouraging move, BT Sport recently covered, for the first ever time on TV platform, the FA Disability cup from St George's Park in England.

Over the two days they showed five football finals: power chair, cerebral palsy and deaf football, amputee and blind finals. I hope there will be more to come as I love the beautiful game.

The channel utilised British Sign Language and enhanced audio description and for the up and coming season BT Sport will trial the inclusion of these accessible features on coverage of several mainstream sports.

It will be more encouraging if other networks are as committed to making these features available as standard for all sports coverage in the future.

In recent years, the BBC has broadcast the wheelchair tennis tournament from Wimbledon (pictured, above), featuring it also on the red button, iPlayer and BBC Sports website.

This means our TV networks are bringing hope into the living rooms for all future aspiring para-athletes in the UK, with the belief that the goals are closer than they once were and ensuring their talent will have an attainable platform.

Michael McEwan is a freelance journalist and disability campaigner.