Jazz - Turner

Jazz - Turner

World Sailing celebrates Disability Pride Month


20/07/2022 - 12:16

World Sailing is celebrating July’s Disability Pride Month - dedicated to raising awareness of disabilities and promoting inclusiveness - by catching up with 24-year-old British Para Sailor and disability campaigner Jazz Turner

Tell us more about July’s Disability Pride Month

After June’s LGBTQ+ Pride, it’s easy to overlook July’s Disability Pride Month.

So it’s great this year to see more international celebrations in sport and society marking the key moment in history, 32 years ago in 1990, when President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act into law.

But more can definitely be done to highlight this annual observance of just how resilient and innovative the disability community is.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to high profile groups like Valuable 500 – the global business collective innovating together for disability inclusion – campaigning for Disability Pride Month to be front of mind in July.

You spoke at UK Parliament’s House of Lords in June – how did that feel? 

It was a huge honour to take time out of international competition and university studies to address special guests at the UK Parliament’s House of Lords as a Youth Ambassador for Andrew Simpson Foundation, which is transforming the lives of thousands of people with wide-ranging disabilities through sailing.

Educating on the barriers people with disabilities face across sport – and life in general – inside the House of Lords, which plays a crucial role in examining proposals for new laws, questioning government action and investigating public policy, was incredibly inspiring.

Sailing is your first love – tell us why

I started sailing at 14 and was always sporty as a kid. At 18, I was diagnosed with a progressive condition, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes my joints to dislocate. I am in a wheelchair now, but I’ve never thought of stopping sport.

So my big message at the House of Lords focused on the fact that sailing has been the key to my life so far and access to sport in general is incredibly important.

Thanks to my Sussexsport and academic scholarships, I’m able to study Mechanical Engineering. One day I hope to work in medical engineering, designing and making equipment for those with disabilities.

And thanks to my service dog Phoebe, a three year old golden retriever – who is actually a rescue dog – I can go about my daily life and safely sail!

My sport is definitely my community – and I want the same for the many people who may feel marginalised because of their disability or difference.

How can Para Sailors around the world change lives? 

Simply by existing all Para Sailors are inspiring generations young and old. Why? Because in sailing, with the right adaptations and equipment, you can pursue your dreams.

My 2.4mR one-person keel boat has been especially adapted with hand controls, and this has been an easy process. I want people to be able to see someone like me doing things they might want to do.

So in May, I worked with Andrew Simpson Foundation to raise awareness of how sailing can really help young people with mental or physical disabilities.

As part of the annual Children in Need Aiming High Open Day we helped children aged 6 to 13 with special educational needs to progress into watersports. This event came at a crucial time in the campaign to reinstate sailing in the Paralympics, so it was the perfect platform – because grassroots sailing for people with disabilities is an essential springboard for the parasailing pathways.

I also regularly work with the Royal Yachting Association, the UK’s national governing body for sailing, to raise awareness of RYA Sailability to break down perceived barriers to participation and provide more opportunities for disabled people to get on the water.

I try to do as much as humanly possible, getting involved in initiatives that help people through sport. I’m a mentee on The True Athlete Project. And in 2019, I was nominated as Disabled Sports Personality of the Year at Sussex Sports Awards after finishing fourth in two national sailing competitions and for being the first female finisher in the Brighton Half Marathon wheelchair race. I make sure to shout about this on social media.

By challenging peoples’ preconceptions, being open about your own story and sharing information on key platforms in person, on social media and in the media, people can really appreciate the reality and the possibilities.

We can’t change the world, but we can positively influence and create a ripple effect that goes on to help others. This is vital to do always – not just during Disability Pride Month!

How is Para Sailing contributing to society? 

Our sport is amazing – indiscriminate of disability, race, gender and sexual orientation. We also have an equal opportunity in sailing – athletes with disabilities regularly compete against able bodied athletes in the same race in Open classes at the highest levels of our sport.

Outside of competing, sailing helps to build confidence, promotes social skills and creates life-long friendships in a very supportive community.

And in a world increasingly dominated by technology, sailing takes you outside into nature – just you, the wind and the water, feeling a huge sense of freedom, and forgetting all the worries and stresses of life.

Why is the #BacktheBid Paralympic reinstatement for LA28 so important? 

Para Sailing is one of the most inclusive sports there is.

I know from experience that many disability sports require you to have a strong upper body. For someone like myself, whose disability affects both my upper and lower limbs, Para Sailing is one of the few sports I’m able to take part in and be competitive. Everyone in our community wants Para Sailing to be reinstated for LA28 for these reasons – it’s vital we keep pushing.


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