Ghanaian Youth with Disabilities Call for Implementation of Disability Act

The Ghana Federation for Disabled Youth has announced its support for an expedited implementation of Ghana’s Disability Act 715. The Act, passed by Parliament five years ago, still has not been adequately enforced throughout the country. Somewhat similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, DA 715 would address certain structural impediments to the full integration of Ghanaians with disabilities. Modern Ghana reports on the potential impact of the Act’s implementation:

Sign language interpreters should also be engaged in the various departments and agencies such as hospitals, courts and police stations, to enable hearing-impaired persons express themselves in these areas.

While calling on the Ministry of Education to provide disability aids in the drawings of schools‚ buildings to make them accessible to all PWDs, the federation has also called on government to ensure that the offices of the regional and district councils on persons with disabilities are established immediately.

According to the federation, if these issues are addressed, PWDs would be able to enjoy their rights and privileges, as well as perform their responsibilities without any constraints.

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Flying with easyJet Not So Easy for 12-year-old in Power Chair

Declan Spencer, courtesy of the Guardian.

European discount airline easyJet has shown that flying with them is not so easy if you happen to have a disability. Declan Spencer, a 12-year-old English boy with muscular dystrophy, was denied access to an easyJet flight because the company said his power chair was too heavy. Scott Jordan Harris of the Guardian writes:

Declan will soon have spinal surgery that is all but certain to make future air travel impossible, and so his forthcoming family holiday was intended to be a glorious and carefree last trip abroad. But when Declan’s mother rang to arrange for the lift needed to carry him on to the easyJet aeroplane set to fly their family to Cyprus, she was told Declan could not be accommodated because his 90kg electric wheelchair cannot be dismantled. EasyJet only “carry powered wheelchairs provided they can be collapsed into separate parts weighing less than 60kg each. This is necessary to protect the health and safety of the baggage handlers who have to lift the wheelchair into the aircraft”.

This restriction is not industry-wide. Declan has flown with other airlines in the past, and the Spencers will be making their trip to Cyprus with a different, less-dastardly company. It appears that easyJet found it too onerous to round up a few extra baggage handlers to guarantee the dignity and equal rights of one of its passengers.

Even with the great strides the international disability community has made over the years (including the recent efforts of the UK Culture Secretary to promote youth disability sport), it is still all too common for people like Declan to be treated like second class citizens. This is unacceptable. I encourage you to click over to the BBC and watch an interview with Declan’s mother, and then email easyJet on their website to let them know that their attitude toward customers with disabilities is inexcusable. If you’re the tweeting sort, hit them up at @easyJet and @easyJetCare.

It’s 2011, easyJet. Start acting like it.

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Aaron Fotheringham, Hardcore Sitter

As a former skatepark denizen myself, I’ve got a special place in my heart for kids doing stunts on wheels. Needless to stay I was pumped to stumble across the above video of Aaron Fotheringham. Aaron, a chair-user with spina bifida, is a pioneer in what he calls hardcore sitting. Using the ramps and rails at skateparks, Aaron can twist, grind, and even pull backflips. Though BlazeSports is unlikely to move into the realm of extreme sports anytime soon, it’s nice to see athletes with disabilities holding it down for the X-Games crowd.

The footage is pretty amazing, but I beseech you not to try these stunts at home. It took Aaron years of training to master these tricks.

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New Technology to Level the Racetrack for Runners with Hearing Impairments

A pistol blast has been the standard signal for the start of a race probably since the invention of gunpowder, and for an equally long time, athletes with hearing impairments have been at a substantial disadvantage. It’s tough to come charging out of the gate when you can’t hear the signal to run. In open races where athletes with hearing impairments race against those without them, such runners have relied on the sight of the pistol’s explosion or a touch on the back from a coach, both of which can lengthen reaction times and cost valuable fractions of a second.

To resolve this dilemma, the Spanish technology company Technalia has worked with partners both within and outside of the disability sports community to develop a more optimal signaling system. Science Daily reports:

The principal innovation of the system is its capacity to have the disabled athlete perceives the sound of the starting signal at the same time as the rest of the athletes do through hearing. It involves a device with lights placed at the starting line; in front of the athlete and which the athlete’s own trainer triggers using wireless technology. In this way, when the start judge announces the start with “on your marks,” the coach activates a red light; and when she or he says “get ready,” the light goes yellow; and finally, the system automatically perceives the sound of the start signal and the light turns green.

The system was first used on June 11 at a meet at Basauri in the Basque province of Bizkaia. We’ll keep tabs on the system for you and let you know if and when it’ll be available at a track near you.

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UK Culture Secretary Promotes Youth Disability Sport

UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, courtesy of the Telegraph.

In an effort to ensure that the 2012 Paralympic Games in London leaves a lasting impact on the lives of Britons with disabilities, the United Kingdom’s Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a plan to promote youth disability sport even in the face of huge cuts in school sports funding. Hunt tells the Telegraph: “For the first time, we will measure participation rates of young children in competitive sport as we did with adults. This will provide a baseline picture of exactly how many young children are taking part in competitive sport and help us level the playing field so that disabled children have the same access to competitive school sport as everyone else. We will aim to double the number of young pupils with disabilities competing in the first School Games national finals in May 2012 from the last UK School Games, where 100 disabled students participated in athletics, swimming and table tennis.”

As part of the plan, the Ministry of Culture has identified 50 trailblazing schools that can serve as models enhancing sports opportunities for youth with disabilities. Currently 6,000 schools, or around 30% of all schools in Britain, have signed on to Hunt’s initiative. We are glad to see that the British government recognizes that all of its citizens deserve access to athletic programs, and that it continues to find ways to implement these programs even in the face of declining revenues and austerity measures.

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Georgia Blazers Storm the Lakeshore Invitational, Qualify for Junior Nationals

Colin Lancaster, age 7, before the start of his first 800 meter race. Lakeshore was Colin’s second competition ever.

Last Friday, three members of our own Georgia Blazers competed at the Lakeshore Invitational in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. Veteran athlete Bryan Powell was joined by rookies Colin Lancaster and Josh Joines, and all three turned in outstanding performances and qualified for Junior Nationals in both track and field events. Junior Nationals will take place July 16-23 in Saginaw, Michigan, and the Blazers will spend the next five weeks getting themselves into peak condition for their biggest meet of the year. Congrats to the whole team!

Bryan Powell, a national record holder in javelin, prepares for another monster throw.

Josh Joines competes in the shot put. Lakeshore was Josh’s first competition in what promises to be a long and successful career

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Photo Highlights of Our Haiti Trip

If you’ve been following the BlazeSports blog this past week, you know about our team’s successful and demanding week-long trip to Haiti. This delegation traveled throughout the island country, meeting with government officials, grassroots organizers, athletes, and everyday Haitians. They played soccer on the streets of Port-au-Prince and brought supplies into the slums of Cité Soleil. It may well be impossible to adequately describe Haiti to those who haven’t had the privilege of visiting, but photographs can certainly help. So in the spirit of sharing the character of this beautiful and fascinating nation, please check out our photo slide show by double clicking on the image below.

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