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Encouraging unity for International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Inclusive activities have been enjoyed by the Foundation's young people in recognition of the international celebration

| by Matthew Brown

Manchester United Foundation has been delivering special activations with its young people in celebration of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

The Foundation works with eight special educational needs (SEND) schools, delivering weekly sessions for young people with disabilities, and has recently extended its inclusion provision in recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

Observed annually on 3rd December, the international celebration shines a light on people of all abilities, regardless of any barriers or impairment they may face. The Foundation has delivered special events such as an inclusive sports day, a careers event and stadium tour, and a week-long itinerary of different sports at local primary schools.

Students from Foundation partner SEND school Chatsworth High School and Community College were invited to Old Trafford for a stadium tour and careers workshop, during which they were presented to by members of staff from different Foundation departments.

“The students have been introduced to lots of different areas where they could go into employment,” explained Tom Stuttard, the Foundation’s SEND officer, who is based full-time at Chatsworth.

“We’ve had a stadium tour and for some students it’s the first time they’ve done that, so it’s a new experience, which is good. They will definitely benefit from the career aspect and what they could go into in the future.

“It’s a huge stadium and there a lot of different aspects to it so it’s good to expose them to that. There’s been a lot of smiles and it’s been a good day.”

One of the students, Lewis, 20, found it to be a surreal experience: “We’ve been on a tour of Old Trafford and had some talks with staff. It’s one of the biggest stadiums in the world, and when I see Old Trafford, it’s like a dream come true!”

Participants from across the Foundation’s SEND school network took part in an inclusive sports day at the iconic Cliff Training Ground, trying their hand at eight different activities, including blind football, boxing and hockey, whilst pupils at partner primary schools enjoyed a week of inclusive sporting provision, including sports like inclusive basketball.

“For our school, there are a lot of good benefits with Manchester United Foundation, which make it easier to access sports and that’s good for us as students,” said Joe, a student at Manchester Hospital School and participant at the inclusive sports day.

“It’s been good, the opportunities we’ve had. I’ve most enjoyed doing hockey because it’s something I don’t get to play very much, and it’s fun.”

PE lead at St Philips CE Primary School, Nathan Brown, oversaw students taking part in some of the inclusive activities – in this case, wheelchair basketball. He said: “This can have a big impact on the children. They can be more understanding of someone with a disability and how they access sport.”

The Foundation has also recently forged an affiliation with GB Taekwondo, offering a 10-week-long course at partner SEN schools, to engage students in different sports ahead of the 2024 Paralympics in Paris.

Seyam, 14, a student at Pioneer House School, was one of those to enjoy taking part in taekwondo lessons: “I’ve liked doing kicking and a few other moves, like the side-step. I like how you use more strength in this sport.”

There was also integration between female Ability Counts participants and players from the Foundation Phase in the Manchester United Girls Academy, as they came together to encourage unity, and help the young people develop teamwork and communication skills by playing in a series of matches.

Ability Counts participant Sienna said: “It’s been a good experience to see how good the coaching is and how the players train.

“The other girls have been nice, they’ve introduced themselves so we got to know them, and they’ve been encouraging when we’re on the pitch.”

Manchester United Foundation engaged with over 25,500 unique participants during the 2022/23 season, 13 per cent of whom have a disability. Weekly sessions, such as Ability Counts, powerchair football, and bespoke in-school programmes, provide opportunities for young people to be empowered and inspired through the power of football.

For more information about the Foundation’s disability and inclusion projects, please click here.