Grace SDS YPSP 1 Europe In Action Conference

Europe in Action: Grace Jean Lawther

Grace from Scottish Disability Sport’s Young Persons Sport Panel shares her conference experience.

Last week, Grace from the Scottish Disability Sport’s Young Persons Sport Panel (SDS YPSP) was invited by sportscotland to attend Enable’s three-day Europe in Action 2024 Conference, held at The University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre in Glasgow.

From a young age, 18-year old Grace has played football and joined her local team eight years ago. She also began playing autism football at Team United two years ago and her passion for sport has now grown off the pitch – she regularly writes blogs about her experience as a young, autistic woman.

The SDS YSPS allows Grace to bring her passion for sport and disability rights and use them to make a difference. She said: “I really want to widen access for young people. I’ve seen first-hand how good an impact sport can have on your health and wellbeing, and I want even more young people to realise this and get opportunities to play”. 

Grace’s conference experience 

There were around 30 workshops and plenaries to choose from over the three-day conference and this was something that stood out to Grace, she said: 

“There was a buzz about the place as we gathered for the opening session of the conference. There were over 400 people in attendance, including individuals with intellectual disabilities, their families, advocates, and professionals in the area of disability rights”.

“This allowed you to hear from experts and self-advocates from around Europe about all the work going on in the field of disability inclusion. I really enjoyed hearing all the insightful conversation about how we can make Scotland, Europe and the world a more diverse and equal place for everyone to live”.

One of the highlights for Grace was hearing from self-advocates. She said: 

“As someone who is interested in advocacy – I am on the Scottish Disability Sport’s Young Persons Sport Panel, and I write a blog about my experience as a young, autistic woman – it was fascinating to see just how far others have taken their advocating”. 

“I heard from people with intellectual disabilities from across Europe; Romania, Slovakia, Ireland and Belgium – about how they are changing laws in their countries to make lives better for disabled individuals. It inspired me to continue striving towards complete accessibility for disabled people in sport. And who knows how far I can go after that?”

Supporting more disabled people into employment sport 

One of this year’s themes was ‘celebrating good work’ and so Grace was excited to attend sportscotland’s ‘Supporting More Disabled People into Sport’ workshop to learn more about diversity in the workforce, recruiting young people into jobs and supporting employers.

Grace said: “What was especially interesting was the insight into the Modern Apprenticeship programme. This is where young people with disabilities are supported by Enable and sportscotland into employment in sport. In attendance at the workshop, were Modern Apprentices (MAs) who worked at Badminton Scotland, Scottish Sport Futures, Scottish Disability Sport and others”. 

Inspired by others 

Grace felt inspired as she heard from the Modern Apprentices about their experiences of employment in the sporting industry. She said: 

“It was a very hopeful and encouraging conversation. It certainly opened my eyes to the benefits of modern apprenticeships, as well as the accommodations you can get for your disability from an employer”.

Following the workshop, Grace reflected: 

“As a disabled young person there is a lot of anxiety around how the future might look, and it is often the case that our journey looks different to our non-disabled peers. There were so many knowledgeable, courageous people to hear from at the conference”.

“My key takeaways and learnings were; the history of people with intellectual disabilities in Scotland, the importance of choice and autonomy for those of us with disabilities, the progress of the disability rights movement around Europe - and what still needs to be done and how disabled people can be supported into self-advocacy roles”. 

About the Scottish Disability Sport Young Persons Sport Panel

The SDS YPSP is supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. The panel is made up of 16 young people aged 14-22 who come with a huge amount of enthusiasm, knowledge and experience to help shape the future of disability sport in Scotland.

Find out more 

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