British horseracing has launched a new initiative called Autism in Racing.
Funded by the Racing Foundation, Autism in Racing seeks to raise awareness of autism, educate racing’s workforce and customers about the condition, and pilot autism-friendly sensory spaces on racecourses throughout 2021.
The initiative was founded by racing broadcaster and commentator Bobby Beevers whose personal experience with autism led him to question how the sport’s profile could be utilised to raise awareness and ultimately support anybody with autism. Bobby (pictured above) became aware of the condition when his daughter was diagnosed last year.
Under the banner of Racing Together, the sport’s community engagement collective, a collaborative support group was assembled to create and implement various roles to support Autism in Racing.
The group is represented by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), Racecourse Association (RCA), Diversity in Racing Steering Group (DiRSG), members of the racing media and includes cross-sport expertise from Arsenal Football Club, which has significant experience in this area within the football community.
An e-learning module housed within the Racing2Learn platform has been created in collaboration with the Autism Education Trust, with a certificate available to anyone who successfully completes the course which will be available, and promoted to all who work within the sport.
Autism-friendly mobile sensory spaces will be piloted at three British racecourses later this year. Doncaster, Haydock Park and Musselburgh will host a total of six events on selected race days, welcoming families living with autism to enjoy a day’s racing with the safe, sensory stimulus provided by Immersive. Subject to the learnings of the pilot, it is envisaged further mobile sensory spaces will be available for more racecourses in 2022.
Autism in Racing founder Bobby Beevers said: “I honestly believe that this is one of the most exciting and unique projects our sport has seen. Horseracing is both diverse in its make-up and inclusive in the way we operate and this initiative signals that we welcome everyone to join us.
“Since I approached BHA Chair Annamarie Phelps in March 2020 it is brilliant how far we have come and how the industry has rallied round to support the cause. I look forward to progressing with Autism in Racing and seeing it develop.”
Annamarie commented: “I am delighted that, with this pilot programme in place, racing will be able to welcome families and individuals with autism to enjoy a day out at the races in a safe and supportive environment. It is our ambition to be a sport that is open and welcoming to everyone regardless of their background and any differences they may have.
“The mobile sensory room and the impact of the educational module will help open up racing to a new cohort of fans and extend our community. Enormous thanks are due to Bobby for his vision and hard work bringing together expertise and enthusiasm to make this possible. Special thanks to the Racing Foundation, Racecourse Association, and Racing Together and to the steering group.”
Pic credit: The Racing Post.