The British Elite Athletes Association has implemented Recite Me assistive technology on their website to encourage a fair, equitable and ethical Athletics industry. We caught up with Emma Speer, Athlete Support Manager & Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead at the British Athletes Association to discuss the importance of using our voices to create a safe and inclusive culture in elite sports in Britain.
Could you give me a bit of background on the British Elite Athletes Association and your role as EDI Lead?
In 2004, it was identified that there was a need for an independent body within British sport, to both represent the views of all British athletes and to ensure that athlete welfare and wellbeing was central to all decision-making in high-performance sport. The British Elite Athletes Association, previously known as the British Athlete’s Commission, was formed for athletes, by athletes, as an organisation created and dedicated to supporting Britain’s Elite athletes. We offer a completely independent and confidential advice service as well as support athletes across a range of issues from mental health support to selection and appeals, from athlete rep recruitment to safeguarding referrals and support networks.
I came to the BEAA in October 2020 as part of a team commissioned from the NSPCC Helpline to support those disclosing abuse and mistreatment in gymnastics to contribute their evidence to the Whyte Review. My background is in Education and Safeguarding, but I also studied sports at Leeds Beckett University. Working for the BEAA, those two worlds collided and provided me with the opportunity to take on the EDI lead role, which I have championed throughout my career and continues to be at the forefront of my role at the BEAA. I believe that once we know better, we have to do better and it’s essential that as an organisation we contribute, via athlete’s voice, to create a safe and inclusive culture in elite sport in Britain.
Why is ED&I important to the British Elite Athletes Association?
The British Elite Athletes Association plays an integral role in shaping the British high-performance sport system to be fair, equitable and ethical. For us to achieve these goals, representation within sports is crucially important. As an organisation, our membership is almost 1400 athletes across the Olympic and Paralympic World Class programmes as well as England Netball, Paris Progression Sports and National squad-funded sports. We want all of our members, regardless of disability, race, age, gender, sexuality, or other characteristics to feel supported, with the means to fulfil their potential as both athletes and people in fully supportive, inclusive environments.
How did Recite Me align with your diversity and inclusion strategy, and does a particular feature stand out to your website users?
The BEAA recognise our role in eliminating barriers to communication and accessibility for our services. 95% of the BEAA service is provided through the online and virtual platform and Recite Me allows equal access and equal opportunity for our online content to be accessible for our members. The fact that it is a toolbar where members can select the format of content, download audio and even change the language helps to eliminate potential barriers. One fact I find astonishing is that the general reading age across the UK is 9 years old- with the support of Recite Me, our members can use the toolbar and easily adapt to their communication needs.