In 2014 Jonathan Williams attended the Wales Sport Awards as a volunteer, welcoming guests to the ceremony. Fast-forward 12 months and Jonathan is now himself a finalist!
His nomination comes in response to his huge contribution to the disability sport programme in Merthyr as well as the Young Ambassador role he plays across Wales. Currently studying for an ICT degree, Jon gives up two days a week to help young people with disabilities get hooked on sport.
As a powerchair user himself, he has first-hand experience of the difficulties that can be faced:
“I was the first wheelchair user in my school, so I was the guinea pig. It is too easy for disabled people to be pushed into to the corner and asked to read a book. I would rather be doing sport and socialising.”
It took several years to diagnose Jon’s condition, Friedreich’s Ataxia, during which time he found it progressively more difficult to take part in sport. A meeting with Dan Bufton, the local development officer for Disability Sport Wales, helped to turn things around:
“At fourteen I ended up in a wheelchair and couldn’t play football or rugby any more. Dan suggested wheelchair sport to me but I didn’t take to it, I preferred the gym. However, a friendship started and he suggested I helped him and thought about becoming a Young Ambassador.”
His valuable input has helped shape the disability sport programme in his area. As well as attending consultations with service users and partners, he is a vital sounding board, as Dan Bufton explains:
“Jon and I were talking about the fact that disabled children often can’t participate in PE lessons. I suggested ringing up local schools to discuss how we could help them be inclusive. Jonathan’s comment was that we needed to actually show them what could be done.
“As a result, we developed the Paralympics Road Show. To date, we have helped over 500 pupils experience disability sport and Jonathan has inspired everyone with his journey into sport.”
In addition, Jonathan has been a key part of the Wales National Young Ambassador Steering Group, which means delivering workshops, opening conferences, and attending meetings.
Recently taking on meeting all new participants on Merthyr’s Disability Sports programme, Jon continues to be motivated by the personal satisfaction of inspiring people to get out there and do something. With his fantastic “Get it done!” attitude, Jonathan couldn’t fail to encourage others to enjoy the benefits of sport.