Learning disability support provider Dimensions has hailed the reintroduction of athletes with learning disabilities into the forthcoming Paralympics as a move that will help to spark wider social and community inclusion.
Dimensions also hope it will inspire people with learning disabilities to get involved with sport and create a lasting legacy in the UK.
The Paralympics in London mark the beginning of the end of the exclusion of athletes with learning disabilities. The exclusion came into force following the disqualification of the Spanish basketball team in Sydney at the 2000 Paralympics, after it was found that 10 of the 12 members of the team did not have a learning disability.
Rashmi Becker, an executive director at Dimensions, said: “It is essential for people with autism and learning disabilities to be included in their community. The fact that athletes with learning disabilities can now get involved again in the Paralympics signals a move in a positive direction in terms of inclusion.
“It means that their abilities will be rightfully recognised in front of a global audience and I think that is inspiring and exciting. It should be celebrated that people are once again being recognised for their achievements – people with learning disabilities have just as much right to compete as those with a physical disability.
“It is essential that the dreams of people with learning disabilities and autism are not sidelined.
“The fact that athletes with learning disabilities will once again be able to compete in the Paralympics allows them choice as to how they want to progress their competitive career. People with learning disabilities and autism must have the same choices and opportunities to pursue their ambitions as everyone else.”
Katie Smith, 30, who is supported by Dimensions, is a kayaker and participated in the Special Olympics in China. “It is a special journey to be able to take part in a huge sporting event, I really enjoyed taking part in the Special Olympics.
“I think this change for the Paralympics is good because it will inspire people with learning disabilities and autism to get involved in sport. This way they gain more skills.”