1 in 5 people in the UK have an impairment or long-term health condition (LTHC). Despite this, disabled people or people living with a LTHC are less likely to be part of a sports club, group or organisation.

How do we define disabled people and people with LTHC?

Disability can be defined as ‘a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term negative impact on people’s ability to do normal daily activities’. LTHCs are conditions that cannot, at present, be cured, but can be managed by medication and/or other treatments/therapies.

It is important to recognise that not all impairments or LTHCs are visible but they can impact a person’s ability to be part of activities, participate or volunteer in sport and physical activity. It is therefore important for organisations to understand people’s needs to support everyone to have a meaningful and positive experience.

Why is it important for your organisation to be inclusive?

Everyone should be able to enjoy sport and physical. As organisations that support the delivery of sport and physical activity it is important that you do as much as possible to make your offer as inclusive and accessible to everyone.

Organisations have a legal requirement as set out in the Equality Act (2010) which requires them to make reasonable adjustments to their services and offer so that everyone has the opportunity to access them. This does not however just mean making your facilities wheelchair-user friendly, but adapting the activities you offer so that anyone with an impaiirment or LTHC who wants to attend or be involved with your organisation can.

What are the benefits of being inclusive?

There are a number of overarching benefits of being an inclusive organisation which have been explored in more detail on our ‘Creating an inclusive environments’ webpage here

What are the barriers for disabled people and people with LTHCs?

There are many barriers which can prevent disabled people and people living with LTHCs from participating and volunteering within sport and physical activity. A number of barriers rise when the number of impairments that a person has increases. Barriers can be broken into three main types; psychological, physical and logistical. Psychological barriers, which are the views and opinions of disabled people and people living with LTHCs that can prevent them joining in with activities or an organisation, are recognised as being some of the biggest barriers. Each of these has been explored in more detail below, or for more information read Activity Alliance’s research (2012) on understanding barriers to participation in sport.

Psychological Barriers:

  • Personal perceptions leading to thoughts of not being able to or not wanting to take part in sport or physical activity. The misunderstanding of what the activity offer is and includes, often leads to these negative perceptions
  • Negative perceptions of sport and physical activity which have been driven by bad experiences in the past.
  • The impression from others already at your organisation. If those at your organisation are unable to advise or provide information on suitable activities upon enquiry, this may give the impression that your organisation does not support people with specific needs.

Physical Barriers:

  • A lack of suitable facilities and equipment which are not accessible or are only partially suitable for the needs of disabled people or people with LTHCs.
  • Adaptions or changes to facilities, equipment or activities offered may not be provided due to the health and safety concerns associated with these changes.

Logistical Barriers:

  • Location of your organisation and the sessions that you run.
  • The expense involved in travelling to different locations and purchasing specialised equipment.
  • The ability to involve family members/friends or carers to support attendance.
  • Inaccessibility of marketing and communications resulting in a lack of knowledge of activities or volunteering opportunities.
  • The suitability and desire of an organisation to mix disabled people and people with LTHCs with non-disabled people.  

Why is a person-centred approach important?

Disabled people and people living with LTHCs come from a wide range of diverse backgrounds and there are likely to be unique variations in their needs and the barriers they face. It is therefore unlikely to be a single barrier that impacts their desire or ability to participate or volunteer at your organisation.

To help address and understand the issues and barriers faced by individuals, organisations should look to adopt a person-centred approach. This approach enables organisations to look beyond people’s impairment as one demographic. The organisation considers the connection between people’s values, motivations and other demographic groupings. It means you can develop an understanding of the participant and volunteer needs to tailor and meet their offer, where possible.

It can be very challenging to get it right as every audience has different needs, sometimes down to an individual level. But whatever you can do to meet specific needs will help ensure your organisation is as inclusive as possible.

For more information read Activity Alliance’s ‘Taking a person-centred approach'.

How does your organisation embed inclusivity for disabled people and people with LTHCs?

To help address specific barriers identified for disabled people and people with LTHCs and to embed inclusivity in your organisation, it is important to consider what changes you could make.

Research carried out by the Activity Alliance found there are 10 principles (Talk to me research report). Organisations delivering sport and physical activity can use these 10 principles to improve their offer for disabled people and people with LTHCs. These 10 principles are grouped in three steps:

  • Principle 1 – My channels - use trusted communications channels.
  • Principle 2 – My locality – travelling to get to activities or volunteering opportunities can be a significant barrier, try to provide local opportunities where possible.

  • Principle 3 – Me, not my impairment – many people do not identify with being disabled or having a LTHC and are put off by advertising that focuses on this.
  • Principle 4 – My values – understanding individual values and linking these to your offer can make participating or volunteering more appealing.
  • Principle 5 – My life story - continue to meet values in new ways to keep people interested and engaged over time.

  • Principle 6 – Reassure me – provide reassurance to disabled people and people with LTHCs that the activity or role will be welcoming and suitable to their needs.
  • Principle 7 – Include me – You should make sure people with all different levels of ability feel included in your offer.
  • Principle 8 – Listen to me - make it easy for disabled people and people with LTHCs to discuss there needs in a safe and private environment.
  • Principle 9 – Welcome me - ensure that the first experience is enjoyable to encourage retention.
  • Principle 10 – Show me – engage with existing advocates and ask them to promote your organisation.

Activity Alliance is the national charity and leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity. They exist to close the fairness gap between disabled and non-disabled people’s activity levels. A wide range of information and guidance, resources and training is available on Activity Alliance’s website. You can also visit Activity Allaince’s YouTube channel  for further videos and practical advice.
Last modified: Tuesday, 10 August 2021, 10:12 AM