Comments from students studying at Queens University, Kingston, Canada.

In June we welcomed a visit from Canadian students, studying Global Sport & Disability, who were eager to learn more about the Paralympic Movement and its heritage.

Group photo of the Canadian students visit outside of Stoke Mandeville Stadium

We had an amazing response to our presentation, tour and exhibition designs for the new Heritage Centre opening in March 2019.  Here are some of the wonderful comments from the students:

Our field trip to Stoke Mandeville was definitely eye-opening and helped us to apply what we learned in class to real world experiences, all the while thinking critically and addressing the issues that persons with disabilities face in their daily lives.

Understanding the challenges associated with attitudes towards people with disabilities and how they have had an impact on the Paralympic Games illustrate why the heritage and history of Stoke Mandeville and Guttmann is important.  Being aware of these challenges will help us do better in the future to ensure it doesn’t happen again and ensure that through sport, the social inclusion for people with disabilities will improve.

Vicky Hope-Walker presenting to a group of Canadian students at Stoke Mandeville Stadium Canadian student holding the London 2012 Paralympic Torch during a visit to NPHT at Stoke Mandeville stadium

Overall, all the speakers had unique perspectives, insight and knowledge surrounding disability sport and its importance within rehabilitation. The knowledge I gained from these speakers has provided me with an enlightened perspective and a more critical way of thinking when it comes to the importance of sport within the rehabilitation process of individuals with disabilities.

The field study experience to Stoke Mandeville this past weekend was a memorable experience for the KNPE 433 group, one that incorporated insightful commentary, engaging discussion, and first-hand knowledge into the trip. By taking the group to Stoke Mandeville and exploring the birth of the Paralympic Movement, we were given the opportunity to gain knowledge on protecting British Paralympic heritage; by touring the Stadium, we had our eyes opened to the past & present of Ludwig Guttmann’s work.

Our first excursion occurred at Stoke Mandeville, with a presentation given by Vicky Hope-Walker and Katy-Jane Lintott. There was an emphasis placed on Guttmann’s history, and I was particularly drawn to his quote that Vicky Hope-Walker mentioned, “If I’ve ever done one good thing in my medical career, it was to introduce sport into the rehabilitation of disabled people.” This is particularly interesting, because, as H.L. Frankel – a former Stoke Mandeville worker-- notes, there are a multitude of significant contributions that Guttmann made towards the rehabilitation of spinal cord injury patients (2012).

Canadian student holding a running blade during a visit to NPHT at Stoke Mandeville stadium  Vicky Hope-Walker showing students the Paralympic flame outside Stoke Mandeville Stadium

While speaking Vicky stated that, “everyone has the right to be included in and have full participation in society.” I felt that it was important she touched on the rights of persons living with a disability in her lecture rather than only expressing the benefits sport played in their lives. Putting emphasis on rights put power behind her words. In doing this, it can help inform people who are unaware of the rights persons living with a disability have; particularly in the area of sport and recreation.

Katy and Vicky displayed some old photos of patients working out in the hospital, which were also presented in the film, The Best of Men. Instead of listing facts about the history of Paralympic Games, seeing a real historical scene by watching a movie or looking at historical pictures and artefacts, can help us to learn the history more clearly and to provide a better understanding of the effectiveness of sports based rehabilitation.

Vicky Hope-Walker presenting to a group of Canadian students at Stoke Mandeville Stadium Canadian student holding the London 2012 Paralympic Torch during a visit to NPHT at Stoke Mandeville stadium

The field study experience to Stoke Mandeville provided me with new knowledge and unique perspectives with regard to sport disability. An interesting notion raised by Katy and Vicky at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium was how incorporating wheelchair basketball within the schools of primary age children was an excellent way to raise their awareness and education surrounding disability. They described it as “a natural way to learn about disability,” by actively involving them directly within the process.  The idea raised by Katy and Vicky emphasizes the importance of integrating active learning activities such as wheelchair basketball within schools as this may allow for the promotion of increased engagement and a more practical understanding of disability, in contrast to written assignments. Teaching and informing children at a young age about disabilities also ties into the notion of combatting attitudinal barriers towards individuals with disabilities, a barrier to disability sport we discussed in class. The implications of this lie in the notion that when children are raised with a genuine understanding and education about disability, this may lead to increased tolerance, acceptance and inclusion of persons with disabilities within the community.

The presenters highlighted the adaptations that are present at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium sports facility to include those with different abilities. For example, they mentioned how most of the equipment in the workout facility could be altered to fit the needs of a person with a disability or an able-bodied athlete. Similarly, when on the track, Katy and Vicky spoke about how the material was favorable to able-bodied runners, runners with amputations, and wheelchair racers. The discussion by Katy and Vicky links back to the idea of using sport and/or activity for rehabilitative purposes as the facilities at Stoke Mandeville encourage accessible environments for all to participate and socialize.