Despite being the nation that gave birth to the Paralympic Games in 1948 and staging one of the greatest shows on earth, not least in terms of inclusion, in 2012, COP26, unfortunately, failed the inclusive by design test earlier this week.

Entirely avoidable

There are many things which can be said about the incident, overwhelmingly though, it was absolutely avoidable.

For those who missed it, the facts:

  • On Monday 1st November, Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar was unable to enter the United Nations COP26 climate conference after her vehicle was refused access.
  • The shuttle transport provided for attendees was not wheelchair accessible, and the Minister waited for two hours for the issue to be resolved before returning to her hotel.
  • Minister Elharrar reportedly described the situation as “scandalous”.

“The only way they said I could come in was to walk on foot for almost a kilometre, or to board a shuttle which was not wheelchair accessible”

“I came with certain goals, and I couldn’t achieve them today”

Minister Karine Elharrar, Israeli Energy Minister

Lessons from London 2012

When we planned London 2012, right from the outset we knew that what would make good games, Great Games was having access, inclusion and diversity wired in as the golden thread.  This meant thinking about every beat of the athlete journey, every element of the media experience. Every aspect of the Games was conceived, thought, planned and delivered as inclusive by design. 

The most likely means of achieving inclusive by design is through the leadership and the culture. If that can be got right, pretty much everything else can flow, and will follow.

There are numerous examples from 2012 but here’s just one that helps illustrate how we embedded inclusion in our processes. When we put the tender out for the fleet contract we didn’t just ask how can you make it accessible for disabled people as passengers? We also asked how can you make it accessible for disabled people as drivers?  So, when we launched our quest for 70,000 volunteers (our great Games Makers) we could genuinely know that disabled people would have the opportunity, the environment and the culture in which to flourish and give of their best, and they did. They so, so did.

London 2012 leaves an incredible legacy. Including a complete programme of how to stage inclusive events, coming out of the Paralympic Legacy Advisory Group. The Group, brilliantly lead by Emma Boggis, which had membership from across business, the 3rd sector and wider communities, including Channel 4.

Inclusive by design as the golden thread

So, what learnings to take from this week’s inclusion COP up?  Just this, it would not have happened if the event had been planned and delivered with inclusive by design as the golden thread.  As a consequence, it affords the Government an opportunity to review all of its activities, its events, all of its Departments of State to ensure that they are inclusive by design in every respect, sure, for the benefit of disabled people, more, for the benefit of everyone.

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