By Tom Degun
September 25 - More than 600 deaf and disabled people as well as equality campaigners attended the Disability Capital conference at the ExCel centre today, in London’s Docklands.
The summit primarily involved discussions on accessibility for the disabled around London as the city fast approaches the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
The Disability Capital also hosted sessions that focused on inclusion and integration for all disability groups at the 2012 Games and beyond.
Amongst a host of representatives from London 2012 and a variety of other disability organisations were London's Deputy Mayor Richard Barnes, LOCOG's head of diversity and inclusion Stephen Frost, LOCOG Director of Paralympic Integration Chris Holmes and 16 time-Paralympic medallist Dame Tanni Grey Thompson (pictured).
The London transport system is currently being completely refurbished with the hope that it will be more accessible for disability groups.
Barnes opened the summit with a speech that focused on his commitment to improving public transport and access for disability groups around the city ahead of the Games.
He said: “I would like to reaffirm my commitment to equality and accessibility for the disabled.
"If London is not accessible for the disabled in 2012, we would have missed a huge opportunity."
Frost said: “We aim to make London as inclusive a Games as possible.
"It will be a fantastic event that will be accessible for all."
London 2012 is putting a huge effort into ensuring the Paralympic Games have just as much commitment put into their preparation as the Olympic Games and Holmes claimed this is something that has never happened before.
He said: “Previously, the Paralympics have always been a secondary thought to the Olympic Games but that is not the case with London 2012.
"In 2016 [when London’s successor will host the Games], we aim to hand over a Paralympic baton that is far different to the one we received and a baton that truly hold the Olympic Games as an equal event."
The summit discussed improving public transport by creating more accessible train and bus stations not only for disability groups such as wheelchair users, but for parents and their young children, for old people and for those carrying large luggage.
Speakers at the summit also talked about providing better education for those involved in public transport, such as bus drivers, and stressed that although the London train system is extremely old and therefore difficult to make completely accessible, the city would do its upmost to invest in improving facilities for all.
Dame Tanni spoke to insidethegames about the benefit of holding meetings such as the Disability Capital 2009.
She said: “The last time I was with so many disabled people was at the Paralympics in Beijing!
"I think that it is really important to have events such as this where they can all come along together and express their view point.
“We have only got one chance to get these Games right and it is these people here who will help make that happen."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected].
August 2009: Holmes named London 2012 director of Paralympic integration
October 2008: London to benchmark recruitment agencies to help it deliver most diverse Olympics ever
September 2006: London warned it needs to increase facilities for disabled before 2012