The World Games 2022 in Birmingham will be the most accessible edition in the global event’s 40-year history.
Officials from the Birmingham Organizing Committee and Lakeshore Foundation today announced a partnership that will focus on making the Games more inclusive of adapted sports, athletes, fans and experiences for people with disabilities.
The partnership will develop and implement “A Journey to One World, One Games,” an initiative for disability inclusion and access that will focus on four strategic priorities: establishing a diverse and representative steering committee; creating an inclusive and accessible athlete experience; enhancing accessibility and inclusion for fans; and developing a training and education program for staff, volunteers and partners.
“Our goal for this program is to make the World Games 2022 a welcoming, accessible and inclusive event for all,” said World Games CEO Nick Sellers. “But beyond that, we also want to create a legacy for accessibility and disability inclusivity for Birmingham and future editions of the World Games – one that will last far beyond 2022.”
Lakeshore Foundation, a nonprofit that provides services and advocacy for people with disabilities, is an official United States Olympic and Paralympic Training Site.
“We are thrilled that the World Games 2022 is committed to creating a more inclusive and accessible experience for all athletes, staff, volunteers and fans through this partnership,” said Jeff Underwood, Lakeshore Foundation president and CEO. “As the leading partner for this initiative, we are excited to contribute our international experience in adapted sports and collaborate with the disability community and other disability-focused organizations to host the most disability inclusive World Games ever held.”
The partnership between Lakeshore Foundation and the World Games 2022 was ratified at the October meeting of the Birmingham Organizing Committee board of directors. At that time, Underwood was unanimously approved as the newest member of the board.
“Not only will this partnership enhance the legacy of the Games, but Jeff will add tremendous value to the Birmingham Organizing Committee through his vision and leadership,” said Jonathan Porter, chairman of the board for the World Games 2022.
In addition to the new disability inclusion and accessibility initiative, the World Games 2022 will make history as the first edition of the Games to include an adapted sport. Low-point wheelchair rugby was added to the program as an invitational sport in April 2018.
“At the World Games 2022, we will have an adapted sport for the first time on our sport program,” said Joachim Gossow, CEO of the International World Games Association. “We are looking forward to this new experience and we want to use the learnings from this debut to further develop our event in terms of inclusion in an elite sports event. This premiere shows how we see ourselves as an organization: We want to give the diversity of sport the central stage and to this diversity belongs for us also the adapted sport. It’s good that Birmingham has found a partner in the Lakeshore Foundation, which has the experience and knowledge to ensure that this premiere will be a success.”
It’s a feather in the cap for Birmingham, which is hosting the Games for the first time.
“Birmingham’s greatest legacy is its fight for tolerance and inclusion for all people,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “It’s only right that the Birmingham Organizing Committee’s partnership with the Lakeshore Foundation establishes a more inclusive experience. This initiative ensures that every athlete and fan will have access to this historic event.”
The World Games 2022 Birmingham will take place July 7-17, 2022, and are expected to generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact for the city.