On the eve of the all-inclusive Parallel London push/run event, we talked to charity manager James Lee about what it takes to make our communities places where everyone can take part.
I was born with a condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a form of muscular dystrophy that causes a progressive weakening of the muscles. I use a wheelchair to get around – not always the easiest thing to do on public transport! I used to work for an organisation which supports young disabled people.
While everybody faced their own unique barriers to inclusion, common themes came up time and time again – like poor access to education, job opportunities, leisure activities and public transport. These are universal challenges that people face across a pan-disability spectrum and they continue to deny people the chance to be a part of their community. That’s why I’m such a great champion of the work that Livability does to break down the barriers people face in their day-to-day lives.
As a disabled person who has worked to support other disabled people, I firmly believe that everyone has a gift to share. Everyone has something to contribute, they just need to be given the opportunity to take part.
For me the biggest challenge is to encourage a greater understanding of and empathy for our fellow human beings. To me this is the most effective way to create positive change. So much of life is experienced through the subjective lens of the self; I would love to see a greater move towards a more community-focused lens.
I personally draw inspiration from the bible – especially 1 Corinthians 10:24 when it says: Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.
There are so many reasons why we need more inclusive events like Parallel London. Disabled people are usually only seen as beneficiaries of charity – it’s very rare to come across events like Parallel that give us the opportunity to become benefactors. It’s an empowering feeling.
There are just not enough opportunities for disabled people to become active members of their communities. I’m hoping that this event will break down some of the barriers to inclusion and act as a catalyst, encouraging more people to become involved.
Being part of Parallel isn’t about supporting one event, one group of people or one charity. It’s about breaking down barriers and empowering everybody.
Visit www.livability.org.uk/parallel for full information on how to get one of our free charity places.