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The Paralympic Games is more than an enormous sporting event. It’s a global showcase of diversity and inclusion that challenges Host Cities and nations to reconsider and reimagine the ways they design their environments.

Australian Paralympic Team Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin, in Paris for the Chef de Mission Seminar, believes the 2024 Paralympic Games could set a new standard for accessibility, with a range of initiatives and designs that move towards enabling people with a disability to be fully included and live their lives to potential.

Here are some of the best:

1. Accessible rooms

The Paris Paralympic Village is the best equipped Village yet for a Games in terms of the number of fully accessible or accessible-friendly rooms. At previous Games, the Australian Team had to manage accommodation that was a mixture of accessible rooms and non accessible rooms. This created challenges to accommodate athletes and officials from the same sport on the same floors or areas of the allotment. With room features such as large profile light switches and custom designed toilet flushes, the Paris Village offers far more flexibility in the way athletes can be grouped, including wheelchair users being able to share apartments with ambulant athletes. This is a progressive legacy piece that provides Paris a model of community housing with universal access for all residents.

An example of a bedroom with two beds in the athlete's village in Paris.2. Village mobility 

The Paralympic Village environment is spread over a large area. Moving between team allotments, the dining hall, laundry services, transport services and other places requires mobility. To help, Paralympics Australia and Games sponsor Toyota will provide free access to shared mobility aids. For instance, there will be banks of motor devices that can be attached to personal wheelchairs for use to get around the Village. Like bike-share schemes we see around many cities, the hardware will be available on an app to be rented. Athletes will be able to collect a device, click it onto their wheelchair and move around the Village more quickly and without fatigue, and then deposit the device back to one of many banks located around the Village.

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3. Volunteers

Volunteers are an essential part of any major sporting event. Without volunteers, a Paralympic Games cannot function. Paris 2024 is proud that of the 15,000 volunteers expected to assist with the Paralympics next year, 3000 will be people with lived experience of disability, providing a range of services for all Games participants.

A man testing out a mobility device with another man helping.4. Uniforms

Athletes need to feel comfortable and proud to wear the Australian Paralympic Team uniform. Paralympics Australia has worked closely with our Official Suppliers to develop uniform items that cater for the specific needs of our Paralympians. This includes features such as zips to fasten the RM Williams shoes that will be used for ceremonial wear, various Birkenstock slides available according to personal accessibility needs, magnetic zips for the team’s ceremonial tracksuit and an RM Williams Opening Ceremony jacket that has an elasticised waistband to assist those with dexterity issues. These developments add to Paralympics Australia’s usual process of providing uniform customisation for athletes pre-manufacture and offering a tailoring service at the Games for those who need late adjustments to be made.

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5. Tourist area upgrades

Outside the Games’ immediate environment there is evidence of changes being made to make the city more accessible, especially in areas frequented by tourists. For instance, around the Eiffel Tower, many light gravel pathways which are uneven and have drainage dips, are being improved to provide easier mobility for people with a disability. Such upgrades suggest the Paralympic Games will provide a strong impetus for change to allow Parisians and tourists with impairments better access to famous and important monuments well beyond Paris 2024.

By: David Sygall, Paralympics Australia
Posted: 30 August 2023
Image: International Paralympic Committee