Jo Grace is an inclusion and sensory engagement consultant and founder of The Sensory Projects. She is one of the ambassadors of Parallel London, the UK’s largest disability-led challenge event which will take place on 4 September. Jo, who has a diagnosis of autism, aims to contribute to a future where people are understood in spite of their differences.
I’ve been instrumental in creating the UK’s first mass-participation Super Sensory race. This 1k race encourages participants to exercise their senses over a course comprised of all kinds of sensory experiences and has been designed to fully engage all the participants.
Aside from the physical benefits and the chance for everyone to have fun, I am interested in how sporting events alter people’s view of participants. Sport is active, it is doing, it is positive. We don’t think of sport as passive, or those who take part as missing out or being “unable” in any way. Someone who takes part in sport is someone who does.
The athletes with profound and multiple learning disabilities who are taking part in the Super Sensory 1k are likely to be people who are usually seen as “unable” in their everyday lives. I’m hoping that a big like event like Parallel London will change this view.
As you watch the athletes complete the Super Sensory 1k you are not seeing a group of people who can’t do something. You are seeing them push themselves to their physical limits – which is exactly what you see when you tune into the Olympics.
Taking part in the Super Sensory 1k will be different for every athlete. Whether they are moving their bodies to a rhythm or responding to a sound, their achievements will be unique. But whatever their experience, it’s going to be extraordinary.
I will be taking part in the Super Sensory 1k on the day, and I will also be hosting a warm-up workshop prior to the race for participants. We will run through the sensory aspects of the race together and get to know fellow racers.
Participants will also have a chance to share what success looks like to them, so we’ll know to cheer when someone reaches a personal best. Afterwards I’ll be leading a workshop for supporters, to show them how they can use the stimuli from the Super Sensory 1k to continue sensory athleticism at home.
I’ve used all my knowledge about which sensory experiences are most accessible to create a 1km route that targets all of the sensory systems, from sounds and smells to textures and colours.
We wanted the experiences on offer to be something people could re-create at home as well – not only to enable participants to train for the event but also for them to revisit it afterwards, to remember the excitement of the day in a way that is meaningful.
The biggest barrier in our communities is a lack of awareness and understanding. You can have all the ramps and disabled toilets and special services you like and people will still not be included.
Parallel and events like it, are beacons for change. They’re an opportunity to spread knowledge and increase awareness. If we do this, everything else will follow.
Parallel London will be held on 4 September 2016 at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London. As a proud platinum partner, Livability is offering free charity places.
To book your place, or to find out more about the event and how to get involved, click here.