Para equestrian tells of struggles with “blending in”

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Diane Green: "As I’ve been able-bodied and I’m disabled now, I can see the accessibility issue from both sides."
Diane Green: “As I’ve been able-bodied and I’m disabled now, I can see the accessibility issue from both sides.” © Diane Green/FEI

A once able-bodied rider who is now a para-equestrian is working to improve accessibility in hotels and other leisure facilities for people with disabilities.

Speaking in the latest edition of the FEI’s Para Equestrian Digest, hospitality consultant and British Grade I rider Diane Green says that “accessibility is about being able to blend in”.

“And people with disabilities just want to be like everyone else.”

As well as being an international athlete, Green founded the Para Equestrian Foundation in 2021 to offer therapeutic riding and competition experience to athletes across the globe, through mentorship and training for riders and their coaches.

She was injured some 25 years ago while leading a horse that was sedated for turn out, following several months of box rest. “It was a cold January day and the horse woke up, fully fly bucked, and got me in the face with his hind leg.

“I had eye socket, nose and cheekbone fractures and it is now believed a bleed on the brain had occurred but was undetected. I was later diagnosed with trauma-induced Multiple Sclerosis and have very limited mobility.”

Green was a full-time consultant for the hotel industry before the accident and continues to consult in hospitality, helping hotels better fulfil the needs of their customers.

“As I’ve been able-bodied and I’m disabled now, I can see the accessibility issue from both sides,” Green says.

Diane Green was a full-time consultant for the hotel industry before her accident.
Diane Green was a full-time consultant for the hotel industry before her accident. © Diane Green/FEI

As well as helping to design bedroom and bathroom concepts and restaurant layouts or general accessibility, Green also offers a hotel booking service to help customers be sure of an accessible stay to remove any drama. “There is nothing worse than not being able to access a property or use the equipment provided because it just hasn’t been thought through,” Green says.

She said many hotels have a few accessible rooms, but if many para athletes go into one area, it doesn’t take long for those rooms to get booked up. “The reason for the low numbers of accessible hotel rooms is that able-bodied people are reluctant to stay in a disabled room because they look too clinical,” Green says.

“There hasn’t been much emphasis given to how these rooms have looked until now, but I’m pleased to say that things are starting to change.”

She relates an incident when accessibility issues meant she had to “wait for ages” for assistance to use a stairway lift, because the person with the remote control unit to operate it was otherwise engaged.

“Although it’s fabulous when a hotel does have the technology to make access easier, we must be able to use it ourselves and not have a member of staff come and operate it for us. Because all this does is draw unwanted attention to yourself,” Green says.

“People with disabilities don’t want to be in the limelight for the wrong reasons. As a para athlete I’d like to be in the limelight when I win a competition but not for trying to get into the hotel.”

» Read the latest edition of the FEI Para Equestrian Digest

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