Have you ever been part of something special, unusual and BIG? Say, a production or a special event that you have been rehearsing or planning for months. Then, for a few days, you give it your all and you live and breathe it until it ends?!
Taking part in a special event, especially where you play an important and critical role as a team is such an exhilarating and satisfying feeling – and the pride you feel in its overall success is the icing on the cake!
That’s how it felt to be a transport partner to the World Para Athletics Championships London 2017 at the London Stadium in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where we delivered Accessible Shuttles to spectators for ‘the last mile’ of their journey. The knowledge that we made travel easier and participation possible for so many people was incredibly rewarding. Time and again we were told that because we had made their transport so easy, they were able to enjoy the event more than they expected and had decided to book extra tickets.
We met many inspiring people including Megan, a 9-year old junior UK wheelchair dance champion now entering the world of wheelchair racing (@AWish4Megan), and 18-year old Abbie with her sights on wheelchair tennis at Wimbledon. We were honoured to meet a gold medalist from the 1984 Paralympic Games whose face lit up when we asked after her medals, as well as 100-year old Joyce who is still able to get out and about with door-to-door accessible transport. We met a group of young people with complex health care needs and disabilities from the Nidderdale Children’s Resource Centre in North Yorkshire who were on a 3-day mini holiday to London. We also met the SENCO team from Southern Road primary school in Newham who were proud that the whole school was able to attend, including their pupils with disabilities.
However, what really stands out in our memories was the opportunity given to 5,000 community groups and 70,000 school children, many of whom have profound disabilities, to attend the Para Athletics event over two days. We are proud to have played an important role in the record breaking: a record number of children ever at a sports venue, and the most children moved to one place in a day by TfL’s London Underground. Discussions are ongoing as to whether it was the most children moved in a day since the Second World War!
You may remember that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games set out to be the ‘public transport Games’ as well as the most accessible to date. That event raised the bar in terms of the provision of accessible transport, and set the benchmark for future international sporting events. It became our mission to keep this legacy alive by ensuring that all people, no matter their disability or mobility needs, could participate in sporting events. Further, we wanted to ensure that the community transport sector, with its gold standard approach to safety, could show the wider world what top-quality accessible transport looks like.
Working with partner community transport operators, including Tower Hamlets, Westway and Wandsworth, ECT Charity is very proud of its involvement with the Para Athletics over 10 days – promoting accessibility and proving to everyone #WhyCTMatters!