Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Disabled people twice as likely to be inactive than general population

A new report reveals there is a significant ‘activity gap’ between disabled people and their non-disabled peers, despite disabled people expressing a strong desire to be more active.

Activity Alliance’s latest Sport and Disability Survey found that disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive compared to the general population, a disparity that has remained consistent since the report was first published five years ago.

Cost of living crisis further entrenching the activity gap

The survey, conducted by IFF Research, included 2,320 disabled and non-disabled adults aged 16 and over. It found that only four in 10 (43%) disabled people feel they have the opportunity to be as active as they’d want to be, compared to seven in 10 (69%) non-disabled people.

Other key findings include:

  • Six in 10 (59%) disabled people say they rely on benefits or financial assistance to be active, with around four in 10 (38%) saying a fear of their benefits being taken away prevents them from being more active.
  • While disabled people prefer to exercise in outdoor space, less than half (44%) say it’s easy for them to physically access outdoor spaces (vs 78% of non-disabled people).
  • Disabled people are significantly less likely to report high satisfaction with their life, with many saying they feel lonely always or sometimes. Two thirds of this group said being active could help them to feel less lonely.
  • Disabled people are less than half as likely to ‘see people like them’ playing, working, and volunteering in sport and physical activity.

Participants also reported a decline in opportunities (including activities, services, and support) for disabled people post-Covid and during the cost of living crisis. The workshop participants reported a perception that local councils and charities that used to support disabled people in their local area are facing a funding crisis and have reduced services and support in response to this.

One disabled person who took part in the survey said: “There’s nothing coming at the moment from councils… It hasn’t gone back to any sort of level since before the pandemic. There’s no funding whatsoever.”

While another said: “I think cost is a massive thing… everything is so expensive now… I need personal training. I can’t do it on my own. I have to pay £50 a week for two hours a week. I can’t afford that.”

Calls for government to improve physical activity opportunities for disabled people

Adam Blaze, CEO at Activity Alliance, says he now has three key asks for the government to improve physical activity opportunities for disabled people. This includes protecting benefits, equipping health and care workers with the knowledge to support disabled people to pursue physical activities, and increasing the number of accessible outdoor spaces.

He said: “Everyone has the right to be active where and however they choose to be, but this is not reality when you look at the latest findings in our survey. There are some fantastic examples across the country that challenge this trend, whether within the local community or national programmes, and these need to be available to everyone who wants to be active.

“There are more than 16 million disabled people in the UK, and the reality is that three in four want to be more active. This is not only an untapped market but shows there are vital improvements needed to break down deep-rooted barriers.”

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