A new report by the charity, English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), has revealed that despite the euphoria of the 2012 Paralympic Games, disabled people are still experiencing barriers preventing their full participation in physical activity.
A EFDS study into disabled people’s lifestyles and their participation in physical activity found:
- There is a clear untapped demand for sport and physical activity, with 70 per cent of those surveyed saying they want to do more.
- 64 per cent of disabled people surveyed would prefer to take part in sport and physical activity with a mix of disabled and non-disabled people, however only 51 per cent currently do. Therefore, the research highlights a clear mismatch between preference and availability.
- Over half of disabled people surveyed (51 per cent) are not enjoying their experiences of sport in school, compared to 69 per cent enjoying taking part in sport or physical activity with friends outside of school.
- Over 60 per cent of those surveyed claimed that either a lack of awareness of opportunities or a lack of available opportunities is what prevents them from taking part in sport and physical activity.
Barry Horne, Chief Executive of EFDS, said : “This report highlights that there is still a big gap between ambition and reality when it comes to disabled people’s participation in physical activity. There has been a huge focus on elite level participation and the Paralympics produced fantastic role models but the real work and change is required at the grassroots level.”
“If people are being turned off participating in sport because of their experience at school for example, it creates a much greater challenge to engage people later in life when their behaviours and attitudes towards sports participation are more deeply ingrained. For disabled people who are keen to be active and want to be included, the development, delivery and active promotion of appropriate opportunities is essential.”
“The fact that disabled people’s participation in sport is much lower than non-disabled people is a serious concern, especially as the benefits of physical activity to health and well being are widely known. Our research will help inform policy and practice that enables full participation at every level of sport.”
The importance of the research has also been recognised by leading disability sports figures, who have also commended the findings to others.
Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson was quick to point out the value of the research. She said: “EFDS have produced research which is both telling and timely as we seek to broaden opportunities for sporting participation and physical activity amongst disabled people. The findings should be used to influence and drive forward a key area of work.”
Ollie Hynd, MBE, Paralympic, Double World and European Champion swimmer said: “This research should be carefully considered in order to help make sport and physical activity count for disabled people. Sport and physical activity has played a huge part in my life, and in making me who I am today. It is really important that disabled people have the chance to focus on their abilities, and not disabilities, through sporting opportunities.”
As well as the barriers to sporting participation, the research also highlights a number of positive experiences which present opportunities for policymakers and sports providers:
- 69 per cent of those surveyed stated that playing sport or being active was important to them.
- The top three reasons people surveyed gave for taking part is ‘because it is fun’, ‘to keep fit’ and ‘to keep healthy’.
- Whilst only half of those surveyed enjoyed sport at school, disabled people who attended a special school were more likely to have enjoyed PE at school (69 per cent).
- The language used to describe opportunities plays a big role in how they will appeal to disabled people. Different language is needed depending on the target audience. For example disabled women prefer the descriptive term ‘recreational activities’ whilst disabled men surveyed preferred to use the term ‘sport’.
Lisa O’Keefe, Director of Sport at Sport England said: “Last summer’s Paralympic Games sent a very clear message that disabled people can play and excel at sport. To capitalise upon the momentum generated and convert interest into taking part, it is important for those delivering sport to have a good understanding of peoples behaviours, choices and motivations. This survey helps by providing valuable insight into the needs and requirements of disabled people, helping to shape our future work in creating more opportunities to enable disabled people to play sport”
To read the full report and for more information on EFDS, please visit www.efds.co.uk