You could be a competitor at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janerio in four years time.
That’s the message from Lynne Glen to people living with disabilities across central Scotland.
Try a sport tomorrow, and with the right dedication and coaching, you could be competing at a national level within a year. From there, the global stage could await you.
Lynne is a regional manager for Scottish Disability Sport. It’s her job to help people from the Falkirk district make the most of their sporting potential – regardless of their disabilities.
She’s eager to point out that there are opportunities in the area for everyone – no matter their age or experience.
“We want everyone to get involved,” said Lynne. “We work primarily with people with physical, sensory and learning disabilities – but we try and focus on their abilities. Rather than the negatives we focus on the positives.”
As the first events of the 2012 Paralympic Games get underway in London today (Thursday) the profile of disability sport has never been higher.
But too many people – whether those living with a disability or caring for someone that does – believe taking part in sport is beyond them.
A belief persists that disability sport suffers from a lack of suitable facilities and specialised clubs. In fact, there has never been a greater variety of activities on offer. And the numbers taking part locally are increasing annually.
“When I first started six years ago, there were three clubs,” explains Lynne. “Now we’re talking about ten disability specific clubs. And the big strategy now is all about working with mainstream clubs and supporting them so they can include disabled athletes.
“In central Scotland in the last six years there’s been six priority sports: athletics, boccia, bowls, swimming, football and wheelchair curling. If someone gets in contact, we can signpost them to one of these six sports in the local area.
“People watching the games should realise that they could be taking part in these sports. The facilities are here. And if there’s not the sport nearby, we’ll find somewhere they can go to take part. And if there’s not something here, there’s bound to be something for them not far away.
“Fife is just across the water, Perth just up the road, North Lanarkshire has power chair football. We do a lot of cross-border stuff.”
The benefits of keeping active are the same for everyone, able-bodied or not.
“We could sit here and tell you hundreds and hundreds of stories of people whose self-esteem and confidence has grown through taking part,” added Lynne.
“Along with the health and social side, they can see a fair bit of the world. We’ve got 12 athletes that represent Scotland living in the central area, and they’ve visited Belgium, Holland and Germany to compete.
“People could be participating at the games in Rio in 2016 if they got involved now, that’s the reality of it.
“Jamie Docherty from Larbert joined an active schools boccia competition three years ago, and was in the GB squad a year later. So they can progress through the sport rapidly if they show the right commitment and receive the right training.”
Challenges remain, however. One of the biggest stumbling blocks preventing those with disabilities participating in sport is transport. Most rely on lifts to and from facilities.
Lynne is currently exploring options to establish a pool of volunteer drivers.
Another issue is gender inequality. There are twice as many women living with disabilities in the Forth valley area as men. Yet males outnumber female participants in disabled sport by two to one.
Lynne’s message is clear. “I cannot emphasise enough to anyone reading – just get in touch and we will find an activity for you. We always follow up calls and we will find you something,” she says.
As the Paralympic Games get into full swing this weekend, there’s likely to be no shortage of people inspired to take part.
To find out more about what disabled sports and activities are on offer in the area, visit www.fvds.org.uk, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07527 147685.