Rugby league star for Harrogate disability event highlighting sport, arts and sexuality

Three key areas disabled people feel underrepresented in will be put under the spotlight at a conference in Harrogate being staged in December by a leading North Yorkshire charity.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 3:57 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st October 2021, 4:09 pm
The keynote speaker at Disability Action Yorkshire’s event in Harrogate is Jimmy Gittins, an ex-rugby league player who, in 2002, suffered a horrific injury breaking his neck in two places.

At Disability Action Yorkshire’s ‘Slightly Alternative Seminar’, which is funded by the National Lottery, delegates will hear from a series of speakers talking about the disabled community’s relationship with sport, arts and sexuality.

The keynote speaker is Jimmy Gittins, an ex-rugby league player who, in 2002, suffered a horrific injury breaking his neck in two places, putting an end to his playing career, and changing his life forever.

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After nine, hard painful months, he walked out of hospital and has since taken on one challenge after another that most people wouldn’t even think they could attempt.

Realising he couldn’t return to his previous careers, knowing rehabilitation was going to be for the rest of his life, he saw an opportunity, and with his friend and physiotherapist formed a specialist rehabilitation unit, which has gone from strength to strength winning national and regional awards.

Jimmy is a mental health ambassador for the charity State of Mind and works tirelessly to raise awareness of the challenges, and opportunities faced by people with spinal injuries.

The event is being held on Friday, December 3 – International Day of Disabled People – at The Pavilions of Harrogate, which is a fully accessible venue, and a mobile changing space will also be provided so that everyone’s needs are catered for.

In addition to the seminar, there will be an exhibition space with a wide range of commercial and voluntary sector organisations being represented.

Jackie Snape, Harrogate-based Disability Action Yorkshire’s Chief Executive, said: “Following the constraints that Covid placed on us, we are delighted to be able to stage this end of year conference and exhibition.

“Our Slightly Alternative Seminar’ is for all disabled people and those who support them. Disabled people tell us that sport, arts and sexuality are areas that are often skirted over, and ones they feel underrepresented in. This event will address that!

“I’m also delighted to announce that Jimmy Gittins is our keynote speaker, and we are very much looking froward to hearing from him.

“We have also chosen to hold it on Friday, December 3, which is International Day of Disabled People. Its theme this year is ‘building back better towards an inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 world by, for and with persons with disabilities’.

“And for those still nervous of attending events and networking, we are ensuring that there is plenty of space to move around.”

Jackie added: “In the next few weeks, we will be publishing the programme of speakers, who I guarantee will entertain and inform. Lunch and refreshments will be provided for those who choose to stay all day.

“There will also be an exhibition space with a wide range of commercial and voluntary sector organisations for delegates to visit through the course of the day.”

Founded 84 years ago, Disability Action has its headquarters and training centre at Hornbeam Park in Harrogate, a residential care home on Claro Road, and a holiday lodge in Lincolnshire.

Its vision is to empower disabled people to live the lifestyle of their choosing, through its training, preparation and other living skills. And as a ‘Disability Confident Leader’, it celebrates and promotes diversity at every level of its organisation.

Further information about Jimmy Gittins is available from his website,

Further information about Disability Action Yorkshire, is available from its website