A ground-breaking campaign to encourage organisations to improve their approach to increasing participation and equality has signed up its fiftieth organisation.
The Include Me West Midlands Pledge is led by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) in partnership with Sport England and disability charity Activity Alliance.
It is a regional approach to making the West Midlands an exemplar region for engaging disabled people and people with long term health conditions to be physically active.
The pledge shows disabled people, and people with long term health conditions that an organisation has made a commitment to become a supporter and consider how it engages better with people and is open to listening to their thoughts and views.
The fiftieth sign-up is the Tudor Grange Leisure Centre, Solihull which is managed by Everyone Active. Meanwhile, 50 other organisations have contacted WMCA stating they are keen to sign up.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands said: “Include Me WM has reached an important milestone in helping to challenge perceptions and change lives of disabled people.
“This project gives disabled people, and people with long term health conditions, a voice to help improve access and opportunities across the West Midlands. In addition, it gives organisations the opportunity to contribute to making the region a better place to live.”
Cllr Yvonne Davies the WMCA portfolio holder for Public Service Reform and leader of Sandwell Council, said: “It is highly encouraging to see such a variety of organisations show they are eager to commit to improving how they engage with disabled people in the West Midlands.”
Dr Mark Fosbrook, who is seconded to the WMCA from the charity Activity Alliance to manage the campaign said: “Include Me WM goes deeper than simply creating access to a sport or leisure centre, but about having an appropriately trained workforce, improved transport, access to services and inclusive messaging and imagery.
“We are heartened by the terrific response, but this is no time to sit back. We are gearing up to encourage many more sign-ups, and we have further plans in the pipeline including a website.
“Include Me WM is about making a positive difference to disabled people and people with long term health conditions by giving them a voice to help improve access and opportunities across the West Midlands.
“By signing the pledge indicates an organisation will not always get everything right, but they are willing to listen and learn on how to make improvements for individuals.”
Tudor Grange joins Coventry City’s charity Sky Blues in the Community, Birmingham-based Sport Structures, Aston Villa Community Foundation and the Wasps Group in signing up to the pledge. Numerous organisations which support disabled people and people with long term health conditions, such as Headway the brain injury association, use Tudor Grange’s facilities.
Wayne Desmond, contract manager at Everyone Active said: “We are delighted to be a part of such an important initiative and mark a key milestone in making the West Midlands more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
“At Everyone Active, we are always looking at how we can break down barriers and accommodate the diverse needs of our customers so that they feel empowered to get active and lead a healthy lifestyle using our facilities.
“Signing up to the Include Me WM Pledge will help us to further our understanding and embed an extra set of principles into our organisation that are consistent across our leisure facilities in Solihull, Stratford, Warwick and Bromsgrove and raise awareness of the opportunities for people with disabilities and long term health conditions.”
Include Me WM uses the Activity Alliance Talk to Me principles to identify how organisations can make improvements to engage better with people. Focusing on these areas helps organisations understand their needs and make physical activity a viable option.
Initial evaluation has shown there are three Activity Alliance Talk to Me principles that Include Me WM participating organisations value the most. The first is Listen to Me which refers to discussing needs in a safe and private environment and listening to thoughts and views on how to improve services.
The second is emphasising disabled people who are already undertaking activities and working within an organisation to give disabled people the confidence to be involved, referred to as Show Me. The third is using the channels that are trusted to communicate with disabled people and people with long term health conditions. Called My Channels, this includes organisations wanting to look at how they can make their communications more inclusive.