Back in May, Foundation SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) officer Sarah Jones took on the National Three Peaks Challenge, aiming to reach the top of Great Britain’s three highest mountains – Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon – in 24 hours.
With a background in and passion for climbing, Sarah’s goal was to raise funds to allow pupils at the Foundation’s SEND partner schools the opportunity to enjoy the sport too, by purchasing specialist equipment for them.
“Sport climbing has been a huge part of my life for nearly ten years, both professionally and personally,” Sarah said. “It has numerous physical benefits, but it also improves communication, balance and coordination – as well as being really fun!
“There has been some progress over recent years in making this sport inclusive and accessible for all, however we need to do more, so I wanted to try and make a difference.
“On the surface, climbing might not seem like a suitable sport for people with disabilities, but this is not the case,” she added. “People who use a wheelchair can climb; people who have multi-sensory impairments can climb and people with learning difficulties can climb. We might need to change the outcomes, provide support, and use adaptive equipment, but disability should not be a barrier to accessing climbing and experiencing its benefits.”
Inspired by her passion to make a change, Sarah completed the challenge in 23 hours and 28 minutes, raising a total of over £1,000. The reward for her efforts followed swiftly, with new specialist climbing equipment purchased in time to form part of the Foundation’s inclusive holiday camps at the Seashell Trust in Cheadle.
“I feel strongly that climbing is a natural skill that children have and should be encouraged in a safe space. In schools and at home, you might find yourself instructing children not to climb on things in case they hurt themselves!
“So for them to have the equipment and a suitable space for us to exercise those skills is really important; it’s very special for me to afford them the opportunity to try out something new and exciting.
“It’s all about changing perceptions and it’s been really encouraging to see people with disabilities who had previously looked upon climbing as unsuitable, now getting involved and really enjoying themselves.”
And Sarah’s work hasn’t stopped there. Now she is in the process of setting up her own climbing qualification that will allow greater access to the sport for young people with SEND around the country. By giving instructors and centres the guidance, confidence and skills to provide inclusive climbing sessions, climbers, regardless of ability, can join in and enjoy the sport.
“If we can show how climbing can be accessible for all, there’s really no limits to how other sports can do the same.”
Wise words, Sarah. Well done from everyone at the Foundation.
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