THE Vanuatu Civil Society Disability Network (VCSDN) has pledged to support Van2017 in creating an inclusive and accessible 2017 Pacific Mini Games.
A joint assessment to provide recommendations to the Van2017 organising committee to increase accessibility for people with disabilities was conducted at the Pacific Mini Games venues.
These recommendations will encourage Van2017 and the Government of Vanuatu to look at building a legacy of inclusion and accessibility.
The Vanuatu Civil Society Disability Network, coordinated by Oxfam in Vanuatu, were joined by Knox Morris from the Disability Desk at the Ministry of Justice, Margaret Macfarlane, President of the Vanuatu Paralympic Committee and Jessica Richardson, Disability Inclusion Officer at the Vanuatu Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee (VASANOC) to conduct the assessment.
The members of the network were shown around the games venues at Korman, the Convention Centre and Freshwota Primary School.
The VCSDN is made up of members from the Vanuatu Society for People with Disability (VSPD), Wan Smol Bag Rainbow Theatre, Disability Promotion Advocacy Association members from various provinces across Vanuatu and the Disabled Peoples Organisation from Freshwota, Erakor and Melemaat.
The VCSDN facilitates collaboration and joint action between its members to advocate effectively to decision makers and contribute to greater positive change for people with disabilities.
Members with various impairments, including physical, mental, intellectual and sensory impairments, are included in the network.
It was a great opportunity for members to not only provide recommendations, but to increase awareness of the rights of people with disability when navigating sporting venues and function centres, especially for the venue contractors and the organising committee.
The athlete villages for the Games will be utilising six local schools across Port Vila, which currently do not meet all accessibility requirements.
VCSDN will work with Van2017 to increase accessibility at these schools to not only ensure para athletes will be able to access the villages with dignity, but also for ongoing accessibility following the Games at the schools. This is a great legacy for the games to leave behind to allow all future generations of people with disability, including future para champions, to have better access to education.
“It was a great opportunity to advocate for universal access at all the Van2017 venues. It is important that people with disability are included right through the planning and development stages of new sites in Vanuatu and we thank Van2017 for valuing the input of people with disability at this stage in development of the venues for the games,” said Jessica Richardson.
“For the first time, there will be two para sports – para table tennis and para athletics — in the Pacific Mini Games. We want to support these athletes and promote inclusion in all future national and international sporting events.
“VASANOC is committed to supporting the rights of people with disability to pursue their sporting goals and be champions in their own right,” Jessica Richardson said (an Australian Volunteer for International Development working with VASANOC looking at disability inclusion in sport).
The Van2017 venues and villages staff encouraged members to be open and creative with their recommendations.
Van2017 will look at not only making areas accessible for the para athletes, but also increasing universal access for spectators and their volunteers.
“Vanuatu society is like all other places in the world. We have people with different levels of accessibility, and no one should be denied access to cheer on the athletes or help to deliver the Games. Access should be a universal right” said Clint Flood, CEO Van2017.
“VCSDN would like to work with all new site development and planning organisations in Vanuatu to ensure international accessibility building standards are met.
“It is important that government and non-government organisations across the public and private sector work with VCSDN to build inclusive environments for all.
“Vanuatu ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability in 2008 and it is important that we strive to meet these rights across all sectors of society.
“VCSDN is happy to provide recommendations to Van2017 to increase accessibility at the Games and leave a legacy of inclusion – leave no-one behind”- VCSDN.
Members look forward to seeing an inclusive Pacific Mini Games in December and will continue to work with Van2017 to ensure their recommendations are acted upon in the lead up to the Games.
– with Van2017