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  • Writer's pictureKyrby Brown

Churchill Fellowship Day Four: A Few Hot Topics

Updated: May 13

Today was full conference day one and it was quite a mix of topics and points of interest.

On our walk to the venue we bumped into two guys involved in amputee soccer, what followed was a really awesome interesting conversation about the importance of building a strong sporting community beyond competition, as they were in the process of shifting the focus of their organisation. In addition, it turns out that they were heaving involved in the Bionic Project who have run a series of 5k (and more) runs incorporating adaptive equipment. During our 15 minute walk we also spoke about the damaging effect of inspiration porn and the disparaging funding drop off among Disabled adults. Isn’t it amazing how like-minded folk can engage so quickly and passionately in the right setting… I guess that’s what this whole thing is all about.

On arrival we attended a talk about adaptive hiking and the use of all-terrain wheelchairs for team hiking. The main take-away for me is the idea of having localised adaptive hiking ‘teams’ (a wide range of people) who would play host and enable both access and usage of the assistive equipment. This is not something I have seen explored in the UK but it’s certainly worth looking into more as we continue on this journey. The only issue with this particular session was that it was presented by the equipment distributors so only one piece of equipment was showcased. There are more and more all terrain chair options and the equipment we saw today would not suite all user types, it would have been nice to talk about alternative options catering to a wider range of disabilities.

We joined session two a few minutes late as we got lost in the venue. The session explored the emerging relationships between disability and aging and the similarities between ableism and agism. Unfortunately the session was so well attended that we didn’t actually all fit in the room which made staying for the full duration impossible. However, I found the topic itself quite thought provoking and conflicting. Whilst I agree that adaptive recreational activities can improve the lives of the elderly, I can’t help but feel it’s important to maintain a distinction between Disability and the natural effects of ageing. As our population ages, Disabled people’s resources (for example blue badges and Disabled parking bays) are being utilised more and more often by older people. This would not be a problem if the resource wasn’t so limited but it causes Disabled people significant challenges every single day. I’m not saying that we should exclude elderly people from adaptive recreation but it’s important to me that resources are focused on the Disabled community in it’s broad-spectrum entirety, particularly Disabled adults from 25-50 who are very much under-served in our current adaptive recreation offering. A secondary point was raised regarding language and identity as many elderly people do not like the term Disabled and don’t think it applies to them. I believe this issue ultimately comes down to the medical model, a prerequisite of society’s negative mindset around Disability. As a Disabled person I have pride in my identity and I would really like the rest of society to see that. Perhaps if the elderly had more positive experiences of Disabled people they wouldn’t be so fearful of the word. The media has a fair bit the answer for here.

Our final session was exploring how bespoke preventative measures can identify and stop abuse in adaptive recreation. This was quite an interesting topic and, as someone who requires physical support on a daily basis, I found the concept of repeated consent quite interesting. As Disabled people, our bodies are often of interest to medical professionals and/or therapists. Looking back I remember a few instances where my bodily autonomy was lacking, particularly in my earlier youth. Personally I do not carry any trauma from these experiences. However, I very much know what it’s like to be hugged against your wishes (I am NOT a hugger!) and believe that consent in this instance is very important, particularly when your Disability leaves you somewhat powerless to stop it. On the flip side, I think there is potential here to go too far with the safeguarding and that will leave us in a society that walks on eggshells around Disability. Common sense has to prevail here! Whilst tight policies build a good foundation, in my opinion, building solid relationships between team members and a good clear line of communication between participants, coaches and volunteers is ultimately the best way to avoid abuse.

In other news, outside of conference related rambling, we are still sorely missing a Kettle… However, the hotel does make a rather nice Hot Chocolate and the Steakhouse next door to Ability 360 serves an excellent lunch! The pool is also offers a refreshing escape during Arizona’s peak midday sun!

Tomorrow is another day of conferencing with some intriguing topics.  Until then…

Image Description: Me in my powerchair sitting by the pool with a ‘hot tea’ in my take-away travel mug - living the dream!

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