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Former para-athlete spreads disabled awareness

Claire Buckle
Claire Buckle Image credit: lep.co.uk

Claire Buckle knows the discrimantion disabled people can face on a daily basis, whether it be in school or in the workplace.

Being a former England and Team GB para-athlete herself, she has first hand experience on how it’s like not to be accepted into society just because you have a disability, in her case it’s cerebral palsy.

Losing her job gave Buckle the time and inspiration to launch Ability Consultancy with the aim to educate people the abilities disabled people can offer.

“It started off with getting sports clubs to be more inclusive,” Buckle told Lancashire Post.

 “When a disabled person turns up, plenty of places say ‘no, health and safety’. There shouldn’t be health and safety issues, it’s about teaching coaches to adapt, not throwing people out.”

The only ‘throwing’ the 42-year-old had done in her sporting career was on the field where she excelled in the discus and shotput. 

“But it soon became apparent that it’s a wider issue,” Buckle continued. “I was made redundant in 2017 and, as a disabled person, it’s probably 10 times harder to get a job because everyone sees you as someone with cerebral palsy or a stammer rather than as Claire.

“In six months of being unemployed, I had about 50 job interviews and everyone said I had the skills, but…Ability Consultancy is about changing that mindset.”

In 1997 Buckle learnt about para-athletics, it changed her life - after years of bullying at school she had finally found something which didn’t just overlook her disability, the sport championed it!

It was this new lease of life which motivated her to launch Ability Consultancy in 2019 offering bespoke workshops which saw companies and organisations learn how they can make their working environment more inclusive and accessible by hearing first hand experience from people with disabilities.

“I love the work,“ said Buckle, from Penwotham. “I did a sports session in Haslam Park yesterday with a four-year-old wheelchair-user, so I put him on a frame runner and he ran down the avenue for 20 metres or so. Showing him and his parents that he can try anything was so nice.

“When I work with businesses, I throw people in at the deep end using disability simulation equipment like visually-impaired goggles that people have to wear going around their office,” she added. “Some of the reactions… I had one person who just stood still and said ‘I can’t move’. Stuff like that really opens people’s eyes to disabled people’s experiences.”

Next on the agenda for Ability Consultancy is the launch of their interactive app using virtual and augmented reality to give people a better understanding on what it is like to live with a disability.

In 2021 Ability Consultancy launched the ‘See Me Not My CP’ schools disabled awareness programme.