With the successful bid to host the 2021 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Bermuda come approximately 3000 athletes, including 100 para-triathletes.
The exposure for Bermuda on the world sporting stage, particularly in para-athletics, will be massive.
Last year, Bermuda pulled off the MS Amlin World Triathlon in style, and the next three events, culminating with the Grand Final, should be no different.
In light of the para-triathlon taking place, Bermuda will need to ensure that accessibility is at the forefront.
Jessica Lewis, Bermuda’s champion track para-athlete, said she was thrilled to hear that Bermuda would be hosting a para-triathlon.
“For people to see the para version of a sport that is so highly loved in Bermuda is phenomenal,” said Ms Lewis, who is currently training for the start of her season.
While para-triathlon is not Ms Lewis’ current discipline, she knows all too well the challenges that can face differently abled individuals when it comes to accessibility.
Some of the main areas that she said would benefit from consideration for creating a more accessible island include more accessible transportation, review of sidewalks/crosswalks, more accessible public bathrooms and more accessibility into shops and restaurants.
All new buildings and any alterations to existing buildings open to the public are required to be accessible for everyone according to Bermuda’s building codes. This can include adequate ramps, clearly signed accessible entrances, available parking spaces, wide corridors, and wheelchair accessible bathrooms.
While two years isn’t much time to make significant changes, particularly any alterations to buildings, Ms Lewis suggested that “using portable ramps that can be placed over stairs for easier access,” could be a potential solution.
She added: “Many differently-abled individuals are stuck in their houses here because there are not many options out there for them to get around. Especially for para-athletes, they will have lots of their equipment (track chairs/hand cycles) that will need to be transported to and from the event.”
She suggested that sidewalk and crosswalk repair be addressed as many sidewalks are uneven with holes and cracks, which “is dangerous as our (wheelchair users) front casters can either get stuck or hit them the wrong way and jar the chair sideways.”
In the long run, creating a more accessible island can be incredibly beneficial for Bermuda, said Ms Lewis, and not only just for individuals in wheelchairs but also for those who have a harder time walking and parents with strollers.
“Greater access will certainly enhance Bermuda. It can give differently abled individuals the chance to come and visit our island and have a great experience.”
To see differently abled individuals perform to the calibre of the para-athletes competing during the World Triathlon Grand Final will also “open up people’s minds to what the differently-abled population and what we can accomplish,” she said.
“It will help us move forward in getting rid of negative stigmas and stereotypes towards individuals who are differently abled so that our community becomes more inclusive,” she added.
This article was originally published in the 2019 MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda Spectator Guide.