While athletes such as Kadeena Cox and Hannah Cockroft were winning gold on the track in Tokyo, young members of East London Race Running Club were out racing round a track in Waltham Forest on shared running frames – the only club of its kind in the whole of London.

The Paralympic Games are brilliant and for two weeks every four years, disability sport is in the spotlight. But with disabled people in the UK only half as likely as non-disabled people to play sport regularly, we must do more to capitalise on the Paralympic flame and ensure that disabled people get the chance to take part in activities week-in, week-out every year.

The ParalympicsGB team are making their mark on the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, winning 80 medals after just the first week and many more outstanding performances by our athletes. The stadiums may be empty in Tokyo, but Channel 4 is getting behind our athletes to give them the platform and recognition that they truly deserve. For two weeks every four years disability sport is mainstream news, but it’s not enough.

The Paralympic Games is often seen as an opportunity to inspire the next generation of elite athletes and raise awareness of disability sport.  The term ‘elite’ is often synonymous with ‘exclusive’ and the Paralympics are no exception. Paralympic athletes dedicate their lives to becoming elite athletes, they are constantly challenging themselves to reach new standards in their sport. The exclusive nature of the Paralympics is heightened by the fact that for many disabled people, they will not see their impairment represented at the Paralympics. The classification system only recognises a narrow range of impairments.

While our Paralympic athletes are 6,000 miles away in Tokyo, clubs like EL Race Running, Safe Haven Basketball and Woolwich Yoga are continuing to deliver inclusive opportunities for disabled young people and their families in under-served inner city communities. The young people attending these clubs are not motivated by elite athletes, they are there to have fun, make friends and improve their health. Yet disabled young people and families too often report a severe lack of local opportunities and choice of activities available to them.

"There are so few activities available for disabled children, any opportunity to expand these facilities would be greatly appreciated by so many families"Parent at Bexley Bike Hub

When the Paralympics come to an end, and the media coverage diminishes, we must focus on reducing the inactivity gap and ensure that disabled people have the right opportunities to be active. Activity Alliance’s recent surveys highlight the huge drop in disabled people’s activity levels since the pandemic and that a concerted effort is needed to rebuild confidence and increase the opportunities available so that many more disabled people will have the opportunity to be active.

Hayley Barton, Delivery Director of the Access Sport’s Disability Inclusion Programme said: “We want to ensure that there are a range of inclusive opportunities in everyone’s local community. During the pandemic, Access Sport has supported over 50 new and existing clubs to welcome and include 3000 disabled people, providing access to a range of sports online and in-person including tennis, hockey and boxing. We are committed to working with like-minded organisations to expand our reach – for example our pilot project in the West Midlands with StreetGames and Sported and our new ‘Hoopz’ initiative with Basketball England.

With the #WeThe15 campaign bringing together international organisations to launch a decade-long campaign to change attitudes and create more opportunities for disabled people, we will continue to play our part in the creation of a more equitable society. We want to ensure that disabled people are visible and active members within the sport and physical activity sector.”

We are excited for the final week of the Tokyo Paralympic Games and seeing many more memorable performances. But perhaps more importantly, we are excited for all the memorable performances that happen week-in, week-out and we want to make more memorable experiences for so many more disabled people.

Back to EL RaceRunning Club where Mia, 12 says:

I really love the fact that I’m able to move around by myself while I’m RaceRunning. I spend the majority of my time trapped in my wheelchair, so it’s magical that I can be free while I’m on the track every week.”