With the continued rise of the Paralympics event, and the respect for para-athletes, it's odd that we don't seem to have seen the same relative increase in our community facilities and general awareness for the disabled community.
Improvements have been made, and some incredible people work in this space, but we still have a long way to go.
Sophie Pascoe has become a household name over recent years, representing New Zealand at three Paralympic games and bringing home nine gold medals, and next year when the Paralympics roll around again there will be 22 sports and nearly 5000 competitors on show.
But for all that coverage and awareness of the para-athletes, we haven't really seen the increase at a community level – be it in para sport, or just accessibility and inclusion in general for those with disabilities.
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For some community groups – schools, sports, councils and facilities - the summer period can be a good time to take a breath and do some thinking, so maybe a good time to think what is possible in the disability space, and how we can all be more inclusive.
Sport Hawke's Bay have made a move and a commitment in this space, by employing their own disability and inclusion adviser to help groups with initiatives and to join up likeminded people and opportunities.
And there are plenty of opportunities. The possibilities for community play spaces - playgrounds as the scene for some of the earliest life interactions for our community and a great place to break down the barriers, and get the little ones used to inter-mingling.
Sport clubs often struggle with accessibility, be it simply onto the grounds, and also the clubrooms, especially if it is an old two-storey building – it's easy to tell a club to get it sorted, but the costs can be prohibitive.
The lower rates of physical activity among adults with disabilities is an issue, clearly not ideal for the physical wellbeing, but with negative links to the mental wellbeing as well.
The opportunities for alignment and collaborative thinking among key community groups, to get the conversation started, action happening, and normalise the integration in our community as much as practically possible.
Things won't change overnight but normalising the inclusion of disabilities into the development programmes of our sports codes, schools and community programmes – and including the disability community into the planning is a start.
Once initiatives take shape and gather momentum, opportunities for funders and sponsors can grow, businesses or individuals with the passion to make a difference in the disabilities space.
With more collaboration and support, more spaces can be created for easier access to fun recreation, physical exercise, and sport. Sometimes just basics such as modified outdoor trails, usable restrooms and shade areas. With a bit of innovative thinking, who knows what is possible.
With more awareness these days for equality among our community groups, it's a good time for leaders and advocates in the disability world to get in behind the lead taken by Sport Hawke's Bay.
It has been a pleasure having Alex Hunt in town over the last few weeks, an amazing and seriously good tennis player, who just happens to only have just one arm (a great guy with a great story, check him out on Google). And local champ Guy Harrison, para-athletics 800m and 1500m runner, has achieved great things already with medals at the Junior Worlds.
It's fantastic seeing the international para-athletes perform at the Olympics, and next year in Tokyo will be brilliant, but it will be equally great to see the growth of more opportunities for our everyday para-community as well.
- Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and a lecturer in sports science at EIT.