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No games? Disabled people face historic crisis

So where are disabled people in the Commonwealth Games?

Obviously, there are the tremendous disabled athletes and we can celebrate that they are integrated into the Games rather than separate events.

But the Games aren't just about sport - they are about belonging to something bigger, being a citizen of Glasgow: this involves having life choices and control, participating and contributing.

Glasgow Disability Alliance has over 2000 members and we can share their views, opinions, and feedback about the Games.

Many disabled people want to be involved in the Games but this is a pipe dream. Despite being proud and optimistic about Glasgow and the Games, the reality is that many disabled people aren't even involved in running their own lives.

In fact disabled people and their organisations are facing the worst crisis known since before the welfare state was introduced. A perfect storm of cuts faces us including Welfare Reform which has resulted in reduced income for many. On top of this, service reform means disabled people may not easily access services and supports and face increasing charges for services.

Hostile, media spun attitudes have led to rising hate crime and this has been fuelled by political spin intended to justify cuts to welfare benefits at a UK level and also to services at local levels.

This context is more challenging than ever. Disabled people understand the challenges but we cannot go along with the self- sacrifice that is being expected. Disabled people's lives cannot be written off as a casualty of cuts.

For those who have care and support needs, budgets are so stretched that some local authorities can barely afford life and limb cover never mind fulfilling aspirations such as taking part in our communities and living the lives we want to live, with the support we need to do this.

Many disabled people don't have access to basic choices about when they get up, what they wear or what they eat.

They need support to realise their strengths, develop confidence and think about goals for their own lives. Disabled people may know their own preferences but have little or no choices or access to the things which enable other citizens to cope, to participate and to make contributions. Things like information about where to go for support or help to raise aspirations and think about the type of life they want to live.

Disabled people tell us that the external context has crushed the self-confidence, and self-esteem of disabled people. Their life chances have been severely curtailed and a sense of meaningfulness has been eroded with many feeling no sense of purpose or ability to cope.

A lack of basic freedom often curtails disabled people from daring to dream about the most basic things because they simply can't leave their homes and get to meet others in the same boat.

Connections and peer relationships, and opportunities to develop their voices are the foundation on which disabled people can begin to recognise their own talents and strengths.

So what does this mean in relation to the Games? It means that we're already starting from an uneven playing field and need people to stand alongside us in the fight for human rights including to participate in our communities - for example, to volunteer for the Games.

What disabled people need is accessible opportunities to take part in programmes, services, supports and positive activities, whatever they are. Access - like transport and personal assistance and communication support to be involved- makes all the difference in the world. It's the difference between being able to volunteer for the Games or not.

We all need meaning in our lives. Disabled people want to contribute and to be part of their communities and society and developing "social capital" - which comes from people being connected to each other through relationships, friendships and wider networks - is the first step.

Think of an example of a thriving community you know and I bet it's got a high level of people being connected to each other. Glasgow is full of thriving communities and disabled people just want an equal chance to be part of these, with choices equal to others.

Disabled people want connections too as it is these relationships which build resilience and provide the scaffolding to shore disabled people up, make them resilient and give them a platform from which they can grow their talents.

With choices, connections and the right support, not only can disabled people's lives be amazing but they can contribute these strengths so that our communities can be amazing too.

And with enough support, people can volunteer for the Games or even just watch!

Tressa Burke is Director of the Glasgow Disability Alliance

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

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