A barrier-free approach: what our workplaces can learn from the Paralympics

Thu 19 August 2021

Man using a wheelchair, with his arms up flexing his muscles.

With the Paralympics set to begin on Tuesday 24 August in Tokyo, Japan, AND is taking a look at lessons we can learn from the Paralympics – and how we can implement these in our own workplaces, for equitable inclusion for all.

The Paralympics first began in 1960, in Rome, Italy. Since 1988, the Paralympic Games have been played in the host cities of the Olympics – demonstrating their commitment to being alongside, or parallel to the Olympics.

Just like the Olympics, elite athletes from all over the world come together to compete in various sporting events.

But unlike the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games are free from the barriers that people with disability can face.

The Paralympic Games are an event of elite athleticism, the best of the best in their field, all competing for a common goal – to go for gold.

The removal of barriers in the Paralympic Games means that people with disability can equitably participate and reach their full potential.

Although we’re not all elite athletes, we can do our part in our respective workplaces to remove barriers – so that we can achieve equitable results for our employees with disability.

In the workplace, removing barriers might look like implementing:

  • Accessible recruitment practices
  • Workplace adjustments
  • Assistive Technology and ICT
  • Accessible communications and meetings.

The Paralympic Games can prompt us to consider and identify the barriers that may prevent a person with disability from participating equitably. If we take that mindset back to the office, we can shape our internal workplace culture into one of equity and inclusion.

The Paralympic Games also provides disability representation in mainstream media. As the Paralympic Games coverage and interest grows over the years, so too does the understanding and attitude around barriers and disability.

After the London 2012 Paralympic Games, research found that ‘one in three people changed their attitudes towards people with disability.’ 

This representation can help audiences see themselves in the athletes, but also promotes the visibility of disability – especially important when not all disabilities are visible.

But what can we take back to the workplace from this? This representation reinforces that people with disability are the world’s largest minority. We can use this representation to encourage and inspire our co-workers, our colleagues and our senior leaders to make sure that inclusivity and accessibility is embedded throughout the organisation.

Overall, the Paralympic Games demonstrates that when we remove the barriers – whether at elite sporting events or in our own offices – we can all go for gold.

Want to remove barriers in your workplace, but not sure where to start?

Become a member of AND to be supported in your journey towards disability confidence.

If you are a member of AND, speak to your Relationship Manager today.

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