At this year’s British Grand Prix in Silverstone, Nathalie McGloin made a bit of history. She became the first disabled sportsperson to present a trophy on the podium. The experience inspired her to launch a new campaign called ‘Accessible Podiums’. “I faced a number of challenges that day, which inspired me to propose these changes,” says Nathalie.
In her role at the governing body for motorsports, the FIA, she’s now calling for more investment at race circuits to improve accessibility for people with disabilities.
Talking to Auto Futures, she says: “I’m highlighting my proposals for advancements in accessibility throughout the motorsport industry…this covers a wide range of improvements and changes – from facilities and services at venues to improving online processes for licence applications. It’s about making the motorsport experience more inclusive for people with mobility issues or disabilities.”
She adds: “The proposals include a number of different actions that will benefit spectators, officials, volunteers and the competitors themselves.”
Nathalie knows all about challenges and disability. At the age of 16, she was a passenger in a car that was involved in a major accident. She broke her neck and was left completely paralysed from the chest down.
In the winter of 2013, Nathalie began her journey to become the first woman with a spinal cord injury to be granted a UK racing licence. A year later, in her Porsche 911 Turbo road car fitted with hand controls, she participated in a number of sprint and hillclimb events
“In May 2015, I became the first female with a spinal cord injury to be awarded a race licence in the UK, and, then became the only female tetraplegic globally to complete a race. I am still the only female tetraplegic to be competing in the world.”
Her car is set up with radial hand controls, an American system that allows the brake and the accelerator to be deployed simultaneously. It is situated to the right of the steering wheel, and both brake and accelerator are controlled by the same lever.
In January 2016, Nathalie and her partner, Andrew Bayliss, created the charity ‘Spinal Track’, which gives disabled track novices their first track driving experience.
“At Spinal Track, we have a specially adapted Golf GTI complete with half a roll cage, racing seats, harnesses, race suspension, easy access grab bar and push-pull hand controls,” says Nathalie. She adds: “The hand controls we use are road hand controls and are already used regularly on road cars by disabled drivers.”
In October 2017, she was invited to Paris to visit the FIA where she was asked by Jean Todt to take on the role of President of the newly formed FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission.
“Our focus is on policies to improve accessibility in all aspects of motorsport, whether that’s improving the processes for people with disabilities to apply for racing licences, new mobility technologies such as vehicle automation, or enhancing infrastructure at venues to make them more accessible and safer in terms of seating, parking, step-free access, installing lifts and other modifications or improvements.”
She told us about her ultimate aim for her new campaign. “We would like to see all Formula 1, GP and Formula E circuits certified with FIA Disabled Access Status by the end of 2019.”
Back on the circuit, Nathalie’s says her other ambitions are to achieve more podium results and to make her way up to the sport’s top step.