Empathy not Sympathy

My Experience of Equality and Diversity at Brands Hatch

By Drew Howard, Motor Vehicle

Hello all.

I am mentoring a new Study Programme L1 Motorsport Tutor called Craig Ormerod. He has a beautiful black Labrador dog, crossed with a cocker spaniel called Poppy.

He recently organised a trip to Brands Hatch for the final round of the BTCC British touring car championship) for all of our Motorsport learners. Craig, myself, Poppy and several very excited learners from our Motorsport cohort attended this event.

On arrival at the circuit, we were informed by a gate marshal that only guide dogs for the blind are allowed entry. My immediate thought was to state that I was blind and that Poppy was guiding me around throughout the day, but I was driving the minibus, so I kept my thoughts to myself. We made special arrangements for Poppy to be cared for and we all had a great day, including Poppy.

The following week, I observed Craig start his session with our Motorsport Level 1 learners. He introduced a starter activity: “Discuss the following: Why only guide dogs for the blind are allowed at Brands Hatch and why would blind people attend Motorsport events”.

Craig gave them 10 minutes to discuss this in small groups and instructed them to make notes. This is a complex debate for anyone to participate in, it really challenges us to think differently and break some stereotypical assumptions.

He gathered them all together and asked each group to give reasons about their thoughts and beliefs. A full facilitated group discussion took place for 20 minutes. There were some very interesting responses, points of view and some great statements made by everyone which showed empathy towards blind people and made them consider how they might enjoy a sport they were passionate about if they did not have the same access they have now.

The outcome from the discussion was that although a race circuit would not be the first place you might think a blind person would want to visit, there should be the equality of opportunity available to them to go and enjoy the atmosphere, noise, smells and passion that is present at a live race track.

Great stuff! I was so impressed that this Level 1 group really thought this through and showed some passion on this subject.

Whilst on the subject of Equality and Diversity it is worth also mentioning about a short video starring Ricky Gervais. For all of you familiar with the TV series called ‘The Office’ staring Ricky Gervais, you will have seen how unequal and un diverse his character David Brent can be. This short clip was done for comic relief to assure all his fans that deep down David Brent also believes in Equality and Diversity.

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