The Government’s champion for the disabled has hailed the annual Tyne Tunnel wheelchair race for helping to break down barriers in the workplace.
An elite field of 24 paralympic athletes from across the globe - including Britain’s six-time Paralympic champion David Weir - will take part in the Tyne Tunnel 2k race in Jarrow on September 11.
But Justin Tomlinson MP, the Minister for Disabled People, says the race’s impact goes far beyond mere sporting glory.
This year’s elite race is being backed by Disability Confident, a Government campaign aiming to boost employment opportunities for disabled people - and boost understanding of disability issues in the workplace.
Mr Tomlinson says the race ‘typifies’ the spirit of the initiative and shows there is no ‘limit’ to what people with disabilities can achieve - whether it’s on the race track or in the office.
Mr Tomlinson said: “It gives me enormous pride that Disability Confident is supporting the Tunnel 2k race as it absolutely typifies the spirit of the campaign.
“This is an event that has been devised and delivered by disabled people who want to encourage others to push themselves to their limits.
“The fact that it could be watched by 300 million people is incredible and shows what can be achieved with an idea and the commitment to see it through.
“The drive and determination shown by the competitors is a metaphor for the efforts of the 226,000 disabled people who entered into employment over the past year - a figure we want to see increase further.
“Employers are now recognising the benefits of employing talented disabled people and the Tunnel 2k event hammers home that there is no limit to what can be achieved.”
The Tyne Tunnel 2K begins with a 200m sprint from the south end of the northbound Tyne Tunnel, before descending the 1 in 20 downhill leg – with an overall drop of 30m, with the wheelchair athletes typically reaching speeds between 35 and 45mph within 30 seconds.