As part of IARS' celebration of young volunteers' achievements we are documenting their personal progress and work over 2010.

The following article was was written by Jamie Lawson, age 22, who received Research Methods Training as part of her involvement in the Youth Voice Journal project.

If you would like to support opportunities for other young people please consider becoming a member of IARS and donating to support our cause. 

"Earlier in the summer I took to part in a proejct on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games with Independent Academic Research Studies (IARS). I was part of a group of young disabled people who live in one of the host boroughs, Tower Hamlets. When I was asked to participate my first reaction was, "great, I’ll get to find out about the 2012 games". We were told we would be a part of a research project, and that the research gathered from us would be published in an article in the Youth Voice Journal 2011. 

It was clear that the main focus of the course was going to be on young people’s views on the accessibility to the Games. This excited me very much as it’s a subject I am passionate about. In 2008 I was a Paralympic Ambassador for the British Council representing Tower Hamlets Borough at the Beijing Games in 2008. I had seen how China had done it; now I had the opportunity to give my opinion on how I think London 2012 should do it. As London is a diverse city we are pretty well educated and are not ashamed to be different, I suggest we rise to the challenge and show the world what a positive attitude London has to disability. This is especially important to me as I am a Tower Hamlets local (one of the Olympic Boroughs) and a wheelchair user. 

As the weeks past we learned so many facts that we didn’t know and wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t been on this volunteering course.  We were always asked our opinion on each issue and encouraged to say what we thought. Everyone had an opinion. I was able to give my opinions as a wheelchair user, which was good because our views are normally quite different to able bodied people.  

The main topic of discussion around the 2012 Paralympic Games was ‘accessibility’. We took a close look at how accessible the transport links and Olympic site is going to be. We discussed our own opinions as young people who have some particular accessibility needs, for example accessibility around public transport  is a major issue for wheelchair users.  It is bad enough travelling around London in rush hour now. Imagine how intimidating it will be to a wheelchair user when there are hundreds of thousands spectators travelling to the Games site? We took a critical, but hopeful approach when considering whether LOCOG have taken in our needs to ensure the Games are accessible to us. 

Towards the end of the course the group came up with some questions that were then put into a questionnaire. We were trained to get responses to the questionnaire in the form of an interview. The IARS staff gave us training on interview techniques. We were taught the difference between open questions and closed questions so we were fully prepared on how to interview someone.  The group decided on which people they would interview and allocated the right person for each interview.  The types of people that agreed to take part in the interviews varied a lot, from carers and employment advisers to friends and neighbours.  The following week we reported our findings back to the group. All research gathered from the questionnaires and group discussions were noted and will form the basis of an article written by IARS staff. 

On the last day of the course we were presented with certificates and asked to log the hours that we had volunteered on the course on the vinspired website. This website keeps a record of the number of hours you have volunteered and when a full 50 hours have been logged you receive the ‘vfifty award’. As part of a reward for taking part in the course some of the group, including myself, were lucky enough to go on a tour of the Olympic site.  This was a great experience and I learnt a great deal.  I never realised how big the site was and how much it is going to affect the local area.  If LOCOG do keep its promises regarding legacy, the development could be a massive improvement to the area and as a local resident I am excited about this.

During my time on the course I have realised how passionate I am about the Games and how I will hopefully get more chances to be involved. It also made me realised how much I want to have my opinion heard as a local resident and as a young wheelchair user. I would like to thank IARS for the opportunity and I look forward to seeing the article published in the Youth Voice Journal special edition in 2011."