Get more disabled people into sport – removing the barriers

70% of disabled people state that they want to do more sport or physical activity, yet 60% say that a lack of awareness or available opportunities prevents them from taking part.
These are some of the key findings from a new report from the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) looking into disabled people’s lifestyles and the impact on their participation in sport.
Just under 70% of those surveyed said that playing sport was important to them. The top three reasons given for taking part are: “it is fun”,”to keep fit” and “to keep healthy”.

School sport could become more welcoming towards disabled children

More than half of respondents indicated that they did not enjoy their experiences of sport at school and 69% said they preferred taking part in sport outside the school gates. If people are being turned off participating in sport because of their experience at school, it creates a much greater challenge to engage people in sport later on in life.
One way could be utilising available training schemes. Teachers and other support staff could have support to make build confidence and competency, when including disabled children. This is one of the objectives of Sainsbury’s ‘Active Kids For All’ initiative which aims to get more disabled children active in school sport. Great stuff.
Local role models and targeted communication are more important than ‘the big games’

  Most people, when moving towards sport, are more likely to be motivated to do sport by someone they know, rather than because they watched a Paralympian. In another EDFS survey from 2012, 79% of disabled people said that Paralympics had encouraged them to take part in more sport or exercise. However, according to a Sports and Recreational Alliance Survey 89% of sports clubs have noticed no change in the number of disabled people joining their clubs since the Paralympics. (Legacy is created locally, not by policies and ‘big statements’, as SMN highlighted in our latest newsletter).   The EFDS survey also highlights that 6 in 10 people do have a role of some kind, with the most common role model is a family member, who, very interestingly does not have to do sport. Disabled people find their role models through experience, lifestyle, hobbies and lifestyle goals.   Targeted, local campaigns often using social media and engaging with parents, carers and teachers can be very successful. A welcoming experience can make a massive difference as both many negative experiences of school sport (above) and the positive experiences at Bradford & Bingley Rugby Club (below) prove.   Improving the way we communicate with disabled people to promote sport and physical activity   78% of disabled people say they use the internet to find out about new hobbies and interests so it is absolutely vital that you use your website, Facebook pages, Twitter etc. to tell interested people about your inclusive sporting activities.   SMN have done a number of online searches for sports opportunities for disabled people in different parts of the UK and it has been almost depressing to see the lack of search results. Yes, we know there are some great examples of clubs, organisations, councils and others who promote opportunities for disabled people to enjoy sport, either inclusive or separate, but there is still a long way to go. Making sure that your opportunities are promoted online is the least you can do.   However it is worth remembering that a fair number of, especially disabled, adults have never used the internet. So it is also important that you engage with ‘community connectors’ from schools, disability groups and family and get them to support any sporting endeavours.  

How Bumble Bees Barbarians became England’s first mixed ability rugby union team   Bradford and Bingley Rugby Union Club (‘The Bees’) has a mixed ability team Bumble Bees Barbarians. It was founded in 2009 by Anthony Brook, a young man with cerebral palsy and a learning disability.   Together with some disabled friends he started using an unused patch at Bradford and Bingley Rugby Club’s ground to play a bit of rugby. If the truth is to be told, initially there some existing members of the Bees who were uncertain about having these ‘different’ people at their club.   But gradually some non-disabled players and coaches became involved with The Bumbles and guided by an established Welsh Inclusive Rugby Side, the Llanelli Warriors, the mixed ability team was born.   The Bumble Bees now have over 40 disabled and non-disabled registered players and play regular fixtures against non-disabled teams.   Just over a year ago the Bumbles attracted the attention of the WEA (Workers Educational Association), and were able to set up a class for players with  a learning disability. These players have created a promotional training package and presentation designed to encourage the creation of new Inclusive Teams and the expansion of Mixed Ability Rugby.   On 11th August Castleford RUFC played host to the Bumble Bees Barbarians for a practical display of Rugby For All. A packed clubhouse was captivated by a presentation by the Bumbles’ Inclusive Rugby Team about the benefits to be gained from adopting an inclusive club membership before an enthralling match between their Mixed Ability Team and a Castleford Select side.   I can strongly suggest you go on to the club’s brilliant website  Have a look at the video from 31st July from the tournament Bumble Bees played against Llanelli Warriors and Scottish side The Clan in Kilmarnock – amazing!  There is also a brilliant guide to starting your own mixed ability team. It can be done!

  To conclude   Removing barriers to engage more disabled people into sport and physical activity is not rocket science. Nor is it necessary to comply with every single box ticking questionnaire right from the beginning. As the Bumble Bees demonstrate, start somewhere, learn and improve. Remember. there is not one big homogenous group called ‘disabled people’ – they are as individual as non-disabled people.  

Fun, fit and healthy?   Ask yourself all the time whether the disabled people you are engaging with would say about what they are doing at your club/centre?
  1. This is fun
  2. I am keeping fit
  3. I am keeping healthy
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