On 10 March, I attended a forum at the Madejski Stadium that aimed to bring the physical activity and disability sectors together so they could share good practice, and explore new and improved inclusive opportunities for disabled people. The event was organised by Get Berkshire Active, whose aim is to work with partners and stakeholders to inspire, enhance, co-ordinate and deliver physical activity where they matter locally.
The day was well attended with about 100 people; the room had magnificent views out across the pitch.
The first presentation was delivered jointly by the Activity Alliance and Access Sport. They gave an overview of a recently published Activity Alliance survey that offered an in-depth comparison of disabled and non-disabled adults’ experiences of sport and activity.
The key findings of the survey showed that:
- four in five (81%) disabled adults want to do more activity than they currently do, compared with fewer than three in five (57%) non-disabled people,
- just four in ten (40%) disabled people feel they are given the opportunity to be as active as they would like to be, compared with seven in 10 (71%) non-disabled people,
- disabled people are half as likely as non-disabled people to agree that ‘sport’ is for someone like them (32% vs 63%),
- seven in ten disabled people are motivated to be active to improve or maintain their physical health,
- two in five (41%) disabled people said a fear of losing benefits prevents them from trying to be more active,
- two in three (67%) disabled people said they would listen to GPs, doctors and nurses about taking part in activity.
The Alliance also shared details of the ‘10 Principles‘ that sports providers could follow to help make their activities more appealing to disabled people.
The day provided an excellent opportunity to hear about getting disabled people more engaged and active from people like elite athlete Damian NG who works for SportsAble. I couldn’t help but feel that it would have been nice to hear first hand experiences from disabled people who had taken up a sport or found an activity that enabled them to be more active.
From my own perspective, I know that peer mentoring is an essential part of engaging and encouraging disabled people to become more active and explore ways in which they can safely do that.
Increasing activity levels and a daily programme of stretches and other exercises has enabled me to:
- reduce pain levels,
- improve mobility,
- maintain and enhance independence,
- improve mental wellbeing,
- sleep better,
- reduce my risk of preventable diseases (diabetes, stroke, heart disease).
Most importantly, it’s enabling me to do things that I could never have dreamed of 10 years ago. I’m fitter now than at any other point in my adult life.
This article first appeared on Simone Illger’s blog on 11 March 2020.