Today is the International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD), a worldwide celebration recognising the contributions and achievements of people with disabilities. IDPwD is organised on this day every year by the United Nations, and countries across the globe hold events to mark its importance and to promote better understanding of disabled people.
In Lanzarote, one disabled sportsman is preparing for a special event of his own, one that proves that disability isn’t a barrier to incredible sporting achievement. Later this month, Geoff Holt, 43, will set sail in a wheelchair-accessible 60ft catamaran on a hazardous solo voyage across the Atlantic.
“The 2,700 mile journey will take me up to a month to complete, across some of the most hostile waters in the world,” he says. “In completing this challenge, I will become the first quadriplegic to make the journey, unassisted in every aspect of the sailing.”
By the age of 18, Holt had sailed more than 30,000 miles at sea, including three transatlantic crossings and several solo voyages, but then tragedy struck when a swimming accident left him paralysed from the chest down. And yet he was determined that this wouldn’t crush his dreams – or those of others. In 1995, he helped to found and became chairman of the national disabled sailing charity RYA Sailability, which now helps more than 20,000 disabled people go sailing each year.
Earlier this year, Holt applied to the British Airways Great Britons programme and won flights to Antigua for his family, so they can welcome him ashore when he finishes his epic journey in the New Year. “It’s not about being disabled,” says Holt. “It’s not about sailing the Atlantic Ocean. It’s about demonstrating that disability need not be a barrier to achieving something positive in your life.”
The London 2012 Paralympic Games will start in 1,000 days – and BA is backing its future stars
1000 Days from now, the opening ceremony of The London 2012 Paralympic Games will mark the start of 4,200 athletes’ quest for glory in 20 Paralympic sports played in 21 venues across London and beyond over 12 days.
For the first time, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been planned together from the start to create the best experience for athletes and spectators alike. The UK has had strong links to the Paralympic Games for decades and produced one of its most successful athletes, Tanni Grey-Thompson, who won 14 medals over four Paralympic Games.
“We want to use the power of the games to raise awareness of Paralympic sport, to challenge stereotypes about disability and to give every disabled child a chance to have access to sporting opportunities,” says Seb Coe, chair of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The partners of the London 2012 Games are also firmly behind the Paralympic Games, including British Airways, the official airline partner. To celebrate, BA is running a programme called Great Britons to find and reward British talent – and both disabled and able-bodied people are welcome to enter.
Great Britons is open to every Briton aged 16 and over resident in the UK who needs support to develop their talent. The prizes – flights to BA destinations and a winner’s pack, which includes a camcorder – will be awarded to talented individuals and groups who demonstrate the values associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Games and who strive to be the best. Only those who are determined, competitive and courageous enough to follow their dreams will win.