A leading sports charity is calling on the government to lay out a detailed action plan which commits to improving disabled people’s access to sport.
While the government has committed to getting another 700,000 disabled people active before 2030, a specific scheme which lays out how this will be achieved is yet to be published.
The ‘activity gap’
Currently, disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive compared to the general population. However, more disabled people want to be active compared to the general population (77% vs 54%), according to Activity Alliance’s Annual Disability and Activity Survey.
Worryingly, the charity’s research also reveals that disabled people are nearly three times more likely than non-disabled people to feel lonely always or often (23% vs 8%). This has increased over the last four years, compared to decreasing levels of loneliness for non-disabled people.
Nearly two thirds of disabled people who felt lonely agreed that being active could help them feel less lonely, highlighting the vital role sport and physical activity can play in disabled people’s lives and wider society.
Barriers to sports and physical activity include physical access and financial constraints. A lack of awareness of these barriers among staff at sports facilities also limits disabled people’s opportunities.
Activity Alliance now want the government to actively consult disabled people on a cross-government action plan, with a cabinet-level position to co-ordinate its work. The charity also wants to see the government implement a plan for disabled people within the government’s ‘Tackling Loneliness’ work.
John Amaechi OBE, Activity Alliance Vice President said: “Nobody can deny the impact that sport and physical activity, when done well, can have on people’s lives. But we cannot sit back on our laurels if we have thousands of disabled people still feeling excluded, left out or dismissed.
“Our research earlier this year gave an indication of what more accessible opportunities could do, particularly when addressing mental health and isolation. The government have rightly committed to focusing on increasing activity levels across the board, but without addressing the specific inequalities that disabled people face in sport, you risk leaving behind those who are hit the hardest by inactivity.”
More investment and innovation needed from government
Mr Amaechi says ministers must now focus on making sports more accessible and affordable.
“Nearly two-thirds of disabled people told us in our research that the government should be focusing on making activities affordable to help more people to be active,” he said.
“We need the government to understand the wider challenges that people are facing around cost of living and match it with the level of investment, innovation and policy change that proves they are taking these issues seriously.”