At our East London information morning in early April, Transport for All met Sharon Jones Barnes – a wheelchair badminton player who has played for England and who hopes to participate in the Olympics in 2012.It is not everyday one comes across a sports star, so we decided to find out more!
What have the highlights of your career been so far?
My best achievements to date was to play for England in the 4 Nations Disabled Badminton Championship, in August 2008, which took place in Cardiff, Wales.
I came back with 2 silver medals and also won the shield for Top Female Player of the Championship. This was special for me because I’ve come a long way from when I was not well to getting to a stage of my life where I thought it was not possible to achieve such a goal.
I then had the opportunity of meeting the Mayor of Hackney at the Paralympics Handover in September 2008, whereupon he said to keep up the good work! Another highlight of my career is that I am now able to take my assessment
exam to become a qualified coach for both disabled and non-disabled persons in sport.
I am currently hoping to pass my Level 1 Certificate and believe this can be achieved with the coaching and mentoring received from my coach, Mr Herman Fung.Herman was awarded Coach of the Year in March 2009,
and I have fun learning and playing wheelchair badminton with him.
I have grown stronger and my mobility has improved so much that I am now being coached standing up on my walking frame to hit the shuttle – thats a fantastic achievement for me and gives me so much more confidence and self-belief in myself.
I am now able to work with my coach and other organisations to promote the game of disabled badminton, and we are trying to make others aware that they can and have the opportunity to play – disabled badminton is growing at a fast rate with people wanting to play, but are becoming aware that it is difficult to find somewhere they can go to join a club or group to play.
We are trying to change that by introducing disabled badminton through hospitals, physiotherapy centres, rehabilitation units, schools, community groups and other organisations.
Will you be participating in the games in 2012? How are you preparing for that?
I am hoping to participate in 2012 either competing or finding and training a star under my coaching abilities, or both!
I am already taking coaching lessons once a week and attending the gym. At the same time, I am travelling to different locations for taster sessions and gaining good experience in coaching with Herman.
What are your experiences of travelling in London? Do you encounter any problems?
Since leaving hospital in April 2008 (after a long spell of nearly 2 yrs in hospital), my occupational therapist provided me with the skills needed to use London transport. I was first introduced to utilising the local buses in my area, TaxiCard and then the overhead trains.
However, on using my local bus to travel to do some shopping or to visit family and friends, my confidence was slowly shattered by drivers not stopping at the bus stop and driving off – they take one look at you as though you are a thorn in their side! A particular incident happened when I was with my friend and at the time, she hailed a bus to stop.
The driver opened the doors of the bus and let people on and off the bus. He then closed the doors – they normally close all doors before they can let the ramp out from the rear door of the bus. However, to our astonishment and frustration, he drove off!! i do not use any London transport buses because I am scared I would be left stranded somewhere by myself!
I try and use Dial-a-Ride or TaxiCard. DaR are trying improve their services and this is very much needed. As for TaxiCard,
I think we should be issued with more trips as the current allocations are not enough.
I find that the overhead train stations are the best for travel. For those stations that have facilities for disabled people,
they are fantastic in terms of helping you to board the trains without any problems and the staff are always there to meet you once you have reached your destination.
It may be that London buses need to take a leaf out of overhead train stations’ books! However, there is still a lot of work needed to implement facilities and access to other train stations and of course,
What are your hopes for accessible transport for 2012? How do you think transport services should improve and become more accessible?
I’m not sure how London and its surroundings will cope in 2012 – as there is already so much everyday traffic congestion and services which need to be improved. It would be great if London transport buses could teach their staff to accept that we need to travel and get to our desitinations as smoothly as possible like everyone else. Maybe there should be a group of us that go to different bus depots and have talks with staff about our experiences.