Disabled people are feeling more discouraged from physical activity since the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, despite 80% of people wanting to be more active.
Activity Alliance, a charity devoted to fairness for disabled people in sport, today released their annual Disability Inclusion Report. The report shows slow progress is being made in engaging with disabled people after the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 1,800 disabled and non-disabled respondents took part in the report’s survey, making it the largest of its kind.
Less than three in 10 disabled people feel encouraged to return to physical activities as normal life resumes after the pandemic. The pandemic has led to less support for disabled people who want to keep active and added extra financial barriers to participation.
Respondents with a disability reported feeling priced out of quality facilities offering better accessibility. Costs related to COVID-19 and the increasing cost of living also mean physical activity is less of a priority.
Less than half of disabled people said thought exercise was for someone like them: 47% of disabled survey respondents chose this answer, compared to 57% in 2020 – showing slow progress – and 72% of non-disabled respondents.
Sam Orde, chair at Activity Alliance, says: “Some barriers that have existed for a long time have been exasperated during this crisis. We cannot allow our nation to ignore and exclude a large proportion of society.
“We appreciate many providers and decision makers faced enormous challenges during the pandemic. But we are almost a year from restrictions being lifted, and still hearing too many negative experiences from disabled people.”
Activity Alliance’s report also found that disabled people are having less positive and inclusive experiences of sport and activity.
52% of disabled people felt returning to activity was a positive experience, compared to 70% of non-disabled people.
68% of disabled people also felt activity leaders met their needs, compared to 80% in 2019 and compared to 87% of non-disabled respondents.
Disabled people felt staff misunderstood their needs, failed to make appropriate adaptions and made them uncomfortable. They also felt that facilities and equipment were less accessible, sometimes due to COVID-19.
Calls for change
In light of the report’s findings, Activity Alliance are recommending leaders, commissioners and organisations make urgent changes.
The charity is calling on those organising activities to increase awareness of opportunities that are flexible, welcoming and creative. They are also recommending sessions of different lengths, intensities or at different times of the day to better meet the needs of participants with a disability.
Activity Alliance wants organisers to avoid standard demographics and a ‘one size fits all approach’. They recommend organisers instead focus on people’s individual needs when planning and delivering activities.
The charity also wants to see organisations ensuring employees and volunteers complete disability awareness training and are equipped with the skills required to embed inclusive practice.
You can read the full report here.