When you consider that between 10 and 11 million of the UK population have a disability, a sixth of the population. You have to wonder why that out of 1100 coaches who have passed through the AOEC's programmes, to our knowledge not one has been a disabled person. That is of course a bit of an assumption, as some of our alumnae may be disabled, but either chosen not to declare it or don't consider themselves as such. Either way, it was very apparent to all of us privileged enough to attend the AOEC's graduation event on 8 November, that not by any stretch of imagination, could one sixth of our number be described as disabled people.
The London 2012 Paralympic games, for the first time, put disabled people on a world stage equivalent to that of their non-disabled counterparts. The inspiring feats and achievements we witnessed, were of course testament to the talent and determination of paralympians. But it was also a powerful endorsement of what is possible when people obtain appropriate, dedicated coaching to support them to achieve their potential.
I joined the AOEC in April this year to try to find ways of bringing more disabled people to coaching as a career and to explore what they might achieve ith coaching support, and how it can be made more available.
Having spoken to coaches and clients with disabilities, we've discovered that coaching has enabled them to achieve outcomes such as the following;
“to appreciate the abilities I have rather than focus on the disabilities…”
“to show that actually a blind person can pretty much do anything they want to with the right amount of attitude, focus and support.”
“to see greater value and legitimacy in my skills and in helping me to make choices that maximise rather than minimise my use of them.”
“to go the extra mile”
“to strive successfully to achieve promotion to the senior Civil service.”
“I have found a career path that is interesting, challenging and rewarding.”
So whilst the benefits that disabled people can obtain from coaching seem clear, what has also emerged is evidence of why more disabled people aren't training as coaches or benefitting from coaching. The principal and perhaps unsurprising barrier is cost; that is, the cost of hiring a coach and significantly for the AOEC and our counterparts in the coach training business, the cost of qualifying as a coach. Where coaching was once available to disabled people through various leadership programmes, austerity has now suppressed investment in such opportunities.
What this picture suggests to me are two questions. Firstly, whilst many AOEC alumnae self-fund their training, a significant number are corporately funded, which does make me curious about why any disabled staff within those organisations haven't attended our programmes.
The second question is one for AOEC and its fellow coaching organisations; namely, how can we make coaching and coach training more affordable and accessible to those to whom it has much to offer, and who in return, have much to contribute.