The 2018 Winter Paralympics are right around the corner, meaning athletes across the globe are gearing up to compete for the gold. At Enable AL, we are not only excited to see the Games, but also the important messages it perpetuates: inclusion and accessibility for all. To learn more about this exciting event, its mission and the work that its committee supports, we spoke with Craig Spence, Director of Media and Communications for the International Paralympics Committee.

What is The International Paralympics Committee and what is its mission?

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is the global governing body for the Paralympic Movement. It aspires to make for a more inclusive society for people with a disability through sport.  We oversee the organization of the summer and winter Paralympic Games, and act as the International Federation for 10 Para sports. In this role we organize world and regional championships.

The IPC has more than 200 members around the world made up of National Paralympic Committees, International Federations, Regional Organizations and International Organizations of the Disabled.

How does your organization raise support and awareness?

The Paralympic Games is our number one property for engaging people around the world with the abilities of Para athletes. The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games were broadcast in more than 150 countries to a cumulative TV audience of more than 4.1 billion people. In addition, more than 1 billion people engaged in the Games via social media. The sport events in between the Paralympics, such as World and regional Championships, also help to raise awareness of Para athletes. Through showcasing Para sport, we have developed a track record for changing attitudes towards disability.

In addition to working with broadcasters and media to raise awareness, we also work with our commercial partners. They include Para athletes in their campaigns to showcase the talents of athletes. For example, a number of Para athletes feature in Toyota’s latest global campaign “Start Your Impossible.”

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of the job is seeing the impact our role has on making for a more inclusive society. London 2012 was a fantastic Paralympic Games with a record of 2.7 million spectators, and a cumulative global TV audience of 3.8 billion, but what was more rewarding was that post-Games research showed one in three British people changed their attitudes towards disability as a result of watching the Games. One in three is equivalent to 20 million people! The Games were also rewarding because many athletes became household names for their sporting abilities.

What is the importance of the Paralympics? How can people further lend their support to this important cause?

The importance of the Paralympics is that it is the world’s number one sporting event for driving social inclusion. People can lend their support by attending events and watching the spectacular sports or tuning in on TV. People can also highlight which sport clubs are inclusive and accessible for all, as this will aid participation. The Games will be in LA in 2028, and this is a huge opportunity for the Paralympics to make a breakthrough in the USA.