A Paralympian and former wheelchair basketball international now spearheading West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA) ‘Include Me’ campaign has been awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of his work for disability sport.
Mark Fosbrook, aged 43, will be formally presented with the honorary PhD in Philosophy from Gloucestershire University in November.
The honorary degree celebrates his inspirational work and outstanding contribution to disability sport, including his current role as Include Me West Midlands manager and engagement advisor.
He is leading plans to make the West Midlands an exemplar region for engaging disabled people to be active and developing a movement focusing on placing disabled people at the heart of development.
Mark is on secondment from Activity Alliance, a charity working to make active lives possible and promoting their vision that disabled people are active for life, working as part of the physical activity team working with partners to involve more people and reduce the inequalities in those who take part.
As a Paralympic athlete, Mark represented Great Britain in volleyball at the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics, wheelchair rugby at the World Championships and wheelchair basketball in two European Championships, winning a gold and silver and one World Championships.
Originally from Portsmouth, Mark now lives in Oswestry with his wife and two boys aged seven and four.
He studied BA (Hons) in Leisure Management and Sport and Exercise Sciences at the University of Gloucestershire, then the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education, from 1994 to 1998.
He captained the men’s volleyball team for four years, and was leisure services sabbatical officer for the university.
He was on track for the 2018 World Wheelchair Basketball Championships when he decided to retire.
“I took the decision to give it up – I just realised that I could make a difference to the lives of thousands of disabled people and it suddenly just sat a bit better with me. I knew it was the right decision.
“Even when they won gold, I knew the potential of this was huge and I have a real passion to ensure this succeeds - so giving up the gold medal is not wasted.”
Mark and WMCA physical activity lead Simon Hall launched the Include Me West Midlands programme in May, with organisations such as Sport England, UK Active and Midlands Mencap among the first to recognise the innovative scheme and sign up.
The next priorities are getting more businesses on board and creating a Citizens’ Network where disabled people’s voices are central to co-design and co-production of inclusive facilities.
“Nowhere else is doing this at the moment and we can really look at how we raise the bar – right here in the West Midlands.
“Our primary focus is around disabled people but the benefits are wider than that, it’s about a permanent change.
“As a disabled person myself, what hit me when I got to speak to others, was that for all the barriers and difficulties, there were just as many brilliant ideas coming out of that discussion.
“Gathering the research gave us a lot of information about problems and issues around the region – but for every problem there was also a solution.”
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said:
“Mark embodies the ambitions and values of our Include Me WM campaign and wider inclusive communities agenda.
“We could not have a finer ambassador for the programme and I am delighted his contribution has been recognised in this way.”