Chris gives evidence to Commons Select Committee

Lord Holmes giving evidence on shared space at the Women and Equalities Select Committee

On Wednesday 7th December from 10.30am Chris gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee. This was a public session in The Thatcher Room, Portculllis House, it was live streamed and is still available to watch on Parliament Live. As part of their current Inquiry into Disability and the Built Environment the Committee has asked: “to what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved? A major advocate of shared space in the UK, Ben Hamilton Baillie also gave evidence.

Surveyor Transport Network were in the audience and reported on the Chartered Institution of Highway Engineers (CIHT) announcement that they believed there was still much to be done by government to improve the situation.


Chris appointed to Channel 4 Board

Chris is delighted to be appointed as non-executive director at Channel 4. During his time as Director at London 2012 he worked closely with Channel 4 on the paralympic broadcast deal and memorably on the award winning “Meet the Superhumans” Campaign. He has spoken powerfully about the importance of that campaign in delivering one of the most enduring legacies of the London Paralympics in raising awareness, connecting with people and ultimately changing attitudes to people with disabilities.

Chris said “I feel passionately about the power of Channel 4s public service remit which encompasses a commitment to being innovative and distinctive, reflecting cultural diversity, championing alternative points of view and inspiring change in people’s lives and am honoured to play a part in such an important and beloved cultural institution.”

An end to unpaid internships?

Chris welcomes reports that the government are looking at ways to end the unfair system of unpaid internships. Internships are often offered to recent graduates as a way of gaining valuable work experience but clearly exclude those unable to work for free. Alec Shelbrooke MP has campaigned on this issue and is set to introduce his second Private Members Bill aiming to ban the practice  by introducing an explicit four week limit to unpaid work experience.  Chris introduced the same Private Members Bill to the House of Lords in June 2016.

The Economist, Unpaid Internships are coming under fire in Britain.

The Mail Online, Theresa May is set to ban internships in latest Cameron snub.

Talking Buses come to Manchester!

Chris and Councillor Andrew Fender

Chris joined transport bosses in Manchester to formally launch new equipment on the city’s free Metroshuttle service. Chris was delighted to support the launch observing  that the improvements are a fantastic way of ensuring the city’s transport network is more accessible.

The Department for Transport’s Green Bus Fund and Transport for Greater Manchester funded the 20 Optare low carbon buses that operate on the Manchester Metroshuttle routes. Transport for Greater Manchester paid for them to be retrofitted with brand new passenger information screens, making travel easier for passengers with visual or hearing impairments.

The 19-inch high-resolution screens provide automatic audio and visual announcements for passengers on aspects of the journey such as the route plan and the next stop, as well as places of interest and nearby businesses. The technology was fitted by contractors McKenna Brothers working with the charity Guide Dogs UK.

Chris was given a guided trip on one of the buses to experience the new technology for himself and he was delighted to congratulate Transport for Greater Manchester for the initiative which will mean people living with visual or hearing impairments can feel more confident in travelling independently. Chris has spoken in Parliament on the importance of talking buses during debates on the Bus Services Bill.



Reflecting on Rio – Paralympics 2016

Just over two weeks before the Rio Paralympics began I wrote in The Times that “the Rio 2016 organising committee in Brazil has given a flagrant two-finger salute to the Paralympics. The Games will, sadly, be remembered for abject failure — save for the sensational performances of the athletes, no doubt, who will be forced to compete in adversity with venues closed and service levels slashed.” Was my prediction correct?

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Disappointment as Premier League fails to keep promise.

More than a third of Premier League clubs, including two of the richest teams in the world, will not have adequate facilities for disabled fans by August 2017. Chelsea, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth are all set to miss an agreed deadline to bring their stadiums up to the minimum standards for disabled access, according to the disabled fans organisation Level Playing Field (LPF).

Last year, all Premier League clubs pledged to improve their stadium facilities for disabled supporters and increase the numbers of wheelchair user spaces by August 2017, as set out in the Accessible Stadia Guidance (ASG). However, in meetings with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which took the league to task last year over inadequate accessibility provisions, the Premier League has now acknowledged that many will miss the deadline.

Commenting on the lack of progress, Chris Holmes, EHRC Disability Commissioner said:

“All clubs agreed to make the minimum recommended improvements for disabled fans over two years. We are now at half-time, and for many teams, the performance is simply unacceptable.”

Rio Paralympics: The Show that wouldn’t be Stopped.

Despite the worst efforts of the disinterested, disinclined and darn right duplicitous the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games is underway, not with a whimper, but as a result of the resilience of the IPC and the attitude of the athletes, with a roar.

The budget has been bludgeoned, in fact, only a few weeks ago there was a real possibility of not a reduced Paralympic Games but no Paralympic Games at all.  And yet the spirit has risen in Rio, epitomised at the flame lighting ceremony at the marvellous Museum of Tomorrow and the emotional opening ceremony at the legendary Maracana Stadium.

The venues are good, as is the athlete’s village and there is a strong media presence; the games will be covered by television, radio and online outlets in a record 154 countries. Notably, the list of broadcasters includes US network NBC for the first time at a summer Paralympic Games. There has been extensive coverage in the UK media of the classification system used in Paralympic sport, and this increased scrutiny and attention is to be welcomed as part of the increased profile of Paralympic sport.

As I toured various venues on the eve of the games: the pool, the velodrome, basketball arena and many more, they felt great. Work to be done, certainly, air of anticipation though, absolutely. On the same day in the House of Lords the excellent report of the Select Committee on the Equality Act 2010 and Disability was debated. A reminder of the work still to be done in the UK, but an opportunity also to reflect on the role the Paralympics have played in changing attitudes towards disability in the UK.

The legacy of London 2012 is often discussed and there are many ways to measure it but the deal we did with Channel 4 resulted in unprecedented coverage, an incredible marketing campaign, a new programme that outlasted the games (“The Last Leg”), and this year’s YODA (Year of Disability) all these must be recognised as  hugely significant in changing attitudes. 

Back to Rio2016, after the horrors of disorganisation and almost disintegration, what should we expect?  First and always foremost, sensational sport.  At the track, pool, velodrome but also sports perhaps not seen before, boccia, wheelchair rugby, all absolutely worth finding out about and tuning in to.

And for Great Britain, a real challenge with Team GB finishing a phenomenal 2nd at the Olympics.  But the team are up to that, and after day one have already matched it. Multiple medallists, stars of London 2012, names now familiar on our lips Storey and Simmonds, Whitehead and Weir, will be leading the golden charge and around them a team with breadth and depth across the sports. 

On day one Sarah Storey became the most successful British Paralympian ever and GB celebrated 5 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze. On Friday we unleash the Weirwolf, super Saturday, Hannah Cockroft and so we go on, 11 days of sensational, attitude altering Great British sport.

So, to the athletes of Rio 2016, the passionate venue level managers, magnificent volunteers, let’s unleash the Paralympians of 2016 to inspire to excel to defy, to delight and to all, for the love of sport, the will of world class performance, let the games continue to Paralympify the planet.

First published in Politics Home



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