We interviewed Andrew Douglass Founder of Parallel, ahead of the Windsor Virtual, taking place on Sunday 27th June 2021, and discussed how this national celebration of disability inclusion is shaping up to become one of the most important mass participation events in the calendar.

Andrew founded Parallel in 2015 as a social enterprise with the core ethos of supporting disabled people to be free to live life to the full in mainstream society. Andrew’s enthusiasm for this core philosophy is infectious and his passion for supporting disabled people is clear as we discuss how Parallel’s work will ultimately help support more disabled entrepreneurs, just like our own ableMove Founder, Josh Wintersgill.

One of the biggest societal problems that we come across time and time again through our work here at ableMove is disability inclusion. We know that society isn’t getting this right at the moment, and we absolutely love working with people like Andrew, who have the drive and tenacity to influence the change that is much needed. As well as raising awareness about the importance of disability inclusion through the annual flagship Parallel event (held until last year at Olympic Park in London but next year will be moving to the spectacular backdrop of Windsor Great Park), Andrew and the whole Parallel team are passionate about supporting disabled entrepreneurs. Andrew explains that he feels that it is much harder for disabled entrepreneurs, just like Josh, to bring their ideas to fruition, and wanted to do something that would help support disabled entrepreneurs achieve their ambitions. Parallel isn’t just about running one annual event, and Andrew’s ambitions for this social enterprise are far reaching and here at ableMove we can’t wait to go along for the ride as we know that Parallel and the work it will do over the next few years will be transformational for the disabled community.

Andrew is certainly no stranger to the world of mass participation and live events. He is Co-Founder and CEO of highly regarded and successful events agency, Innovision (insert outbound link). Through his work at Innovision, Andrew became aware of the lack of engagement on a wider societal level with issues surrounding disability inclusion and decided to do what he does best. “I know how to put on a big event, and I have seen the power of live events and what they can do to change attitudes and behaviours,” said Andrew as we chatted. Launching Parallel as a social enterprise and creating a large scale event such as this year’s Windsor Virtual is putting disability at the heart of that experience and this in turn helps change attitudes and behaviours in a positive way towards disability inclusion.

“My ambition is for our flagship Parallel event to be as big as the London Marathon,” Andrew tells me as we discuss how Covid-19 has impacted the work of Parallel. Parallel London was a phenomenal success after it first launched in 2016 and each year saw participation numbers effectively doubling. Andrew explains that this success was not only measured in terms of numbers, but also by the mix of ages and abilities taking part and that this is a slice of how society should be. Whilst Covid-19 has of course impacted last years event and the 2021 event, which will be run virtually this year, Andrew’s plans for next years event are impressive and we can’t wait to share more details with you over the next few months. The motto of the flagship Parallel event is ‘Start Together, Finish Whenever’ and all of here at ableMove think this sums up disability inclusion beautifully. The event is about people having a go at something, meeting new people and generally having a good time. No pressures, no deadlines, no expectations.

One of Parallel’s partners for Parallel Windsor is Visit Windsor and an important part of this year’s virtual event and next year’s event will be promoting accessible travel and tourism. Obviously, this is very close to our hearts here at ableMove and we can’t wait to get behind the campaign to encourage people to come for the Parallel event but stay for a weekend and explore the many fully accessible hotels, eateries and attractions in the area. Andrew and the Parallel team as well as all of us at ableMove will be working towards making the Parallel event a catalyst for greater accessibility and showcasing accessible tourism.

Purple Sock Day

The inaugural Purple Sock Day will be taking place on the 3rd December 2021. International Day of Persons with Disabilities Day (IDPD) is a UN observance day, held every year on the 3rd December, but here in the UK it doesn’t have a great deal of social impact, and Andrew, recognising this, saw an opportunity and has created Purple Sock Day to coincide with IDPD. In partnership with BAM people are encouraged to wear their pair of BAM purple socks for a day in a simple act of solidarity, to raise awareness about disability inclusion, show support and raise money for a brand new grant making fund that is being set up, in collaboration with Hatch Enterprise. The fund will be specifically to support disabled entrepreneurs. You can buy your socks here.

Founder of ableMove and Parallel Ambassador Josh Wintersgill commented on Parallel’s work: “Andrew and the Parallel team have done something incredible with the Parallel events and myself and the whole team at ableMove are incredibly excited about growing our relationship with Parallel and being a part of what we hope is a societal shift in awareness and attitudes to disability inclusion. The new grant making fund to support disabled entrepreneurs is terrific and will provide capital that entrepreneurs so desperately need to get their business going. There is such a pool of talent out there waiting to be tapped into and encouraging more disabled entrepreneurs will ensure our aim of wider societal disability inclusion is closer than ever before.”

Spending time with Andrew Douglass and listening to him speak with such fervour about disability inclusion has been a privilege and it is clear that this man and the dedicated team of people supporting him will absolutely achieve their ambitions. Andrew confided that he hopes Purple Sock Day will eventually have the same impact and widespread recognition as Red Nose Day, and all of us here at ableMove have absolutely no doubt that this will be the case and will support Parallel to achieve their vision.