This week sees sport and inclusion as the primary theme of Mencap’s Learning Disability Week, and the Access Sport Youth Board believe this should be used as a catalyst to put inclusion at the forefront of sport and its development.

With Mencap surveying over 300 people with learning disabilities to find that 49% would like to spend more time outside of their homes[i], we asked our Youth Board why sport can be a valuable tool to improving the social interaction, as well as the physical and mental wellbeing, of disabled people.

Everyone has the right to play any sport, no matter what their disability is, and it will improve their self-esteem 

Sport is important because it’s good exercise for everyone, and sport gets you motivated whilst you are playing it.

With the unique power to transform lives, sport can be particularly useful in reducing loneliness and isolation for disabled people, whilst also aiding personal and professional development. That said, almost half (43%) of people with a learning disability are inactive[ii] and not reaping the possible benefits from sport, thus demonstrating a clear need for sport and inclusion to be a major focal point of Learning Disability Week.

Sport and physical activity can come in all shapes and sizes; in an assortment of activities; in a wider array of environments and surroundings – with a variety of people. Here at Access Sport we are firm believers in creating inclusive sports clubs and spaces where people with and without disabilities can come together to take part and be active, and studies have supported this with two thirds of disabled people wanting to be active in an inclusive setting – with their disabled and non-disabled peers.

Additionally, almost 73% of non-disabled people were open to taking part in sport with disabled people[iii], with our Youth Board believing that creating an environment that is accessible to ‘everyone’ is instrumental to providing a truly inclusive environment.

Sport should be inclusive for everyone as it gives a sense of equality which allows people and children, who feel less able or have a disability, to enjoy sport as well as feeling more inclined to take continued part in sport despite their differences. This leads on to the bigger national goal of increasing sport participation 

Disability should not be seen as a limiting factor to taking part in sport, but instead sport should be seen as a way for everyone to develop their social and physical skills. Sport is a way to unlock someone’s potential and to see what they are truly capable of - everyone should have the opportunity to find out what that is! 

With this ability to unlock potential and develop social skills, sport can be a pivotal facet of both disabled and non-disabled people’s lives. In order to continually develop inclusive sport and embed it into the blueprint of sporting clubs, bases and organisations, there needs to be a drive to increase awareness – something the Learning Disability Awareness Week is striving to do.

Recent research discovered that whilst 74% showed an awareness that inclusive sport is ‘for everyone’, 67% had no prior knowledge of what the term ‘inclusive sport’ meant[iv]. Through our work at Access Sport, we will continue to strive for progression in terms of inclusive sport in the United Kingdom, making it the norm and the not the exception. For our Youth Board, this is essential to improve the provision of opportunities for disabled people.

It’s important for sport to be inclusive as it ensures everyone is treated equally and fairly, and that everyone has access to sport in a manner that is relevant and appropriate to them.

Having a disability is not a disadvantage and sport is for everyone to keep fit and healthy. Sport should be inclusive for everyone, not just able bodied people. There is so much out there for disabled people!

If you would like to find out more about Access Sport’s Disability Inclusion Programme, or get our Youth Board’s perspective and/or input on your project, programme or campaign please get in touch at [email protected].

The Access Sport Youth Board is a diverse group, bringing together disabled and non-disabled young people on equal terms. Meet the members here!

[i] Mencap, June 2019

[ii] Sport England’s 2017/18 Active Lives data

[iii] Activity Alliance, May 2019

[iv] Activity Alliance, May 2019