Disability sport has traditionally been for the few, and not the many.
Because you need the right kit….
You need to be able to travel….
And, in many cases, you need to have the right condition….
But how do many of us find joy in sport, in games and competition.
We play, we participate, and we learn. Gaining skills, experience and friends along the way.
Everyone is born to play, everyone should be able to play, but so many of us grow up believing otherwise.
It is a tragedy that we don’t talk about, and which many do not even know about.
I grew up with Cerebral Palsy, I grew up with non-impaired siblings and I grew up wanting to play.
I have always loved sport. I first became involved in competitive sport at the age of 11, with Disability Sport England and athletics.
I’ve been involved in disability sport for the past 20 years, but it wasn’t until I began coaching in 2016, that I picked up a cricket bat, a hockey stick or a rugby ball.
At school, PE lessons were rarely adapted, and I was routinely excluded. Sent with a minder to do next to nothing. Then, when I wanted to play outside, I was often blocked on health and safety grounds.
Disabled kids were segregated.
Not because it was necessary, but because it was easier.
If you do this, if you don’t try to innovate, integrate and adapt, and instead you segregate, you create apprehension, fear and avoidance.
And what we know from an ever-increasing dearth of research, is that physically impaired people are more likely to be extremely sedentary compared to their able-bodied peers, which puts them at greater risk of lifestyle related diseases.
Surveys such as that conducted by the Activity Alliance, show that many disabled people still feel that they are unable to be physically active. Likewise, surveys looking at the legacy of London 2012 show that many disabled people feel that negative attitudes towards them have not improved.
What we also need to consider here is, Scope’s Extra Costs Commission, which explored the extra costs that people incurred due to the additional needs of their condition.
A whooping £550 per month (#beforeinflation)!
My experience as a wheelchair racer was, you needed to be able to:
· Travel long distances
· Have disposable income for equipment
· Have a good team of people to support me.
Now, let’s be clear here, those requirements are the same for virtually any elite athlete in any sport.
However, what is different here is, those barriers can and do exist for many who just want to participate and have fun.
Things are changing (slowly) but we need to do more. We need to give more opportunities for children and young people with additional needs to be physically active and have fun.
For many able-bodied children and young people, they go out in the back garden, they play out on the street, and all they need is Jumpers For Goalposts.
We need to give children and young people with additional needs the same opportunity.