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Celebrating equality on International Day of Persons with Disabilities

At Manchester United Foundation we are proud to promote inclusion across all projects and in everything we do, and this International Day of People with Disabilities is no different, as we celebrate our wonderful participants of all abilities and the opportunities made available to them.

| by Katie Newton

In the lead up to today's global day of celebration, students at Foundation partner schools have been taking part in inclusive activities, learning about different disabilities and the importance of equal opportunities across sport and in life.

The theme of this year’s International Day of People with Disabilities is promoting leadership and the participation of those with disabilities in an inclusive, accessible, and sustainable world, post Covid-19.

As such, students from one of the Foundation’s special educational needs (SEN) partners, Chatsworth Multi-Academy Trust, recently visited Old Trafford for an accessible tour of the stadium, museum and megastore, as part of an employability and skills week. Throughout the day Manchester United staff, including tour guides and retail assistants, explained their roles and the skills involved in various jobs at the Theatre of Dreams, offering students an insight into opportunities available behind-the-scenes at a football club.

Tom Stuttard, SEND officer for Manchester United Foundation, is based full-time at Chatsworth Multi-Academy Trust to work with the students, offering extra-curricular opportunities and building relationships within the local community. He said: “The partnership with the Foundation is so important for the students; not only do they receive experiences like today, but when I come in to work they have a big smile on their faces and can’t wait to do sports.

“It’s very important for the learners at Chatsworth to experience situations like today’s visit that will not only help them in future employment but will also develop their social skills, life skills, and allow them to interact with new people. Memories like this will stay with them forever.”

Also this week, members from Manchester United Disabled Supporters’ Association (MUDSA) were invited to Old Trafford with counterparts from Blackburn Rovers, for a stadium tour, lunch, meet and greet and Q&A with Manchester United legends David May and Wes Brown. Many of the MUDSA members have taken part in weekly online exercise classes hosted by the Manchester United Foundation inclusion team over the past 18 months, with Wes joining on a couple of occasions.

“It’s really great to be involved today,” said Wes. “During lockdown, I was able to do quite a few virtual activities with MUDSA members, so it’s been nice to see everyone in person again. These kind of events are always really enjoyable for us, as the fans love to hear stories from our playing days and I know that I speak for both Maysie and I that it was great to be able to chat to them today and put some faces to the Zoom calls!”

David added: “I love getting involved. I think it’s so important that United, as one of the biggest clubs in the world, are seen to be helping and supporting people with disabilities. It’s also been great to have supporters of another former club of mine, Blackburn Rovers, in attendance too; it was really nice to reminisce about my years there as a young lad. To actually see people in the flesh, interacting and enjoying each other’s company once again puts a smile on everyone’s faces.

“The Foundation really is a credit to the club, and it was clear from the MUDSA members here that they appreciated the support they received during lockdown and it’s been nice to mark the community spirit people have shown throughout the past two years.”

MUDSA youth ambassador Nathaniel was one of those in attendance, and was pleased to see the continued efforts in recognising and celebrating disabled fans. “Meeting Wes Brown, a United hero and local lad, was amazing,” he said. “The work the Foundation did during the pandemic was so important and I really enjoyed the online activities that they ran, which of course included Wes too. I found it inspiring how they united the local community.

“My role as MUDSA youth ambassador is to spread the word about our group and encourage young people to get involved and come to games. It’s really special for me to be able to represent the club in this way, especially being a lifelong Red.”