Inclusion – “…equal society…understanding of difference…social harmony”

Meet Terence McSweeney, one of this year’s judges for the National Inclusion Awards. Terence is a PE graduate from UL and has worked in COPE Foundation, Cork since 1979. 

TSThe COPE Foundation provides a range of services to 2,300 people with an intellectual disability and/or autism through a network of community based supports in Cork. From 1979 until 2002, Terence taught physical education in four of the COPE Foundations special schools. He also delivered leisure and recreation programmes to adults with intellectual disabilities in various day and residential services in COPE. In 2002 Terence was appointed manager of the Leisure, Recreation and Physical Activity team, now named the Physical Activity & Sports Department.

The focus of Terence’s work has been to ensure that physical activity, sports and healthy lifestyle remain high priority supports provided by the COPE Foundation and that the service is provided in an environment which is inclusive, egalitarian, personable and caring and where individual needs, as identified by people with intellectual disabilities themselves, their families and other advocates, are met. 

Terence is married to Trisha and they have two adult daughters. Terence’s personal interests are family, woodwork, reading, writing & golf.

Tell us about COPE and what ye do there?

We deliver sports programmes and physical activity programmes for people with multiple and complex needs, programmes of physical activity for health and well-being and we provide a comprehensive aquatics service at our hydrotherapy pool in Cork city.

We aim to enhance the quality of life for our clients by promoting and supporting the provision of the greatest possible access to appropriate opportunities to play sports and engage in physical activities of their choice.

Our department seeks to influence sports and physical activity attitudes and policies by engaging, at every possible opportunity, with the widest possible range of community based stakeholders in physical activity and sports.

From a personal and professional perspective, what are the benefits of inclusion?

  • A more equal society
  • Educates citizens to be tolerant and more understanding of difference
  • Promotes social harmony
  • Helps one recalculate their personal ambitions
  • Help one question their personal value system and often adjust it in a positive way
  • In the context of sports and physical activity – helps one recalculate one’s reasons for participating and thus redirect performance and focus during each event / occasion

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What do the CARA National Inclusion Awards mean to you?

The awards have been a catalyst for change, a motivator and has offered those involved in sports a framework by which to make their club/organisation more equal. The framework has been very helpful as it acts like a set of guidelines for clubs/organisations who want to make their facilities, their members, their social life, their equipment and their activity available to people with disabilities. It provides a strong incentive to people to take the initiative in promoting inclusion rather than waiting for individuals or disability organisations to come to them seeking access.

Additionally, the Awards heighten the awareness of inequality and lack and absence of adequate supports for people with disabilities. They also advertise and promote clubs/sports/ activities to people with disabilities, sometimes for the first time, which may be the prompt needed for the individual to access physical activity.

From being involved in the Awards in the last few years, what have been your stand out moment(s)?

At last year’s awards ceremony, a speech by a mother from Waterford whose son had become involved in an inclusive soccer club was superb.

Overall, it’s incredible seeing clubs working on their entry proposals and articulating what they were trying to achieve – such good motives, such good people and solely in order to improve the quality of life for another person the selflessness of those trying to change their pet dinosaur!!

To learn more about Terence, the other judges and the National Inclusion Awards, click here.