We have an opportunity to ensure disabled people have a level playing field in sport
Our new strategy aims to close the fairness gap within a generation by embedding inclusive practices across organisations and changing attitudes towards disabled people in sport and physical activity.
At Activity Alliance we are committed to our role as the leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity. With the launch of our new strategy, Achieving Fairness, we want to refocus on addressing the stark inequalities that exist. Our plan is centred around our vision – fairness for disabled people in sport and activity.
Throughout the pandemic, disabled people have faced many challenges. Existing inequalities have widened. Our recently commissioned YouGov poll showed that just over 7 in 10 disabled people (72%) agree that the coronavirus pandemic has made sport and physical activity less fair for them. Our action must be immediate if we are to prevent this crisis from worsening - our new strategy will tackle the issues head on.
In reopening activities, we have an opportunity to reset, and to put disabled people’s voices at the forefront of the call for change
Before the pandemic, we were making great progress on closing the gap between disabled and non-disabled people’s activity levels. However, the pandemic has amplified the huge structural inequalities that exist and shown that unless these issues are taken seriously, progress is swiftly undone. Disabled people remain twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people. We need to raise awareness of the barriers that exist, some of them longstanding, and collaboratively, drive change.
In reopening activities, we have an opportunity to reset, and to put disabled people’s voices at the forefront of the call for change. Our new strategy aims to close the fairness gap within a generation by embedding inclusive practices across organisations and changing attitudes towards disabled people in sport and physical activity. Activity Alliance takes on this responsibility and working closely with our partners, will work to ensure every sporting environment is fair, inclusive and accessible for everyone.
And the public are in agreement. The poll told us that over 4 in 5 adults (85%) agree that attitudes about disabled people need to improve generally. We need a more equitable environment, with greater provision and support for disabled people to be active. Our task now, as we progress out of the pandemic, is to enact these changes and make it happen.
We are still facing challenges - for many disabled people in the UK, the return to sport has not been and will not be easy. Insight shows that the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in increased feelings of loneliness and social isolation. Within the existing structures, there have been additional barriers to participation such as the need to self-isolate or access to online activities. Our new strategy will be a collaborative effort to deliver more opportunities, more support, and greater representation for disabled people.
Our aim is that moving forward, we will see organisations scrutinise their own shortcomings. They will overhaul their approaches that have simply not done enough for disabled people. We will be able to understand the changes and impact through measures set out as a vital part of our strategic plan.
There is a recovery process that needs to happen, and at the centre of this must be a determination to ensure disabled people have a level playing field in sport and physical activity. We will call on all leaders to invest, both financially and culturally, in sport and activity that serves everyone in the community, creating a more inclusive and active nation.
It is clearer more now than ever that we must work as one to achieve these goals. Our framework will put disabled people at the heart of decision making. We must see a difference in opportunities available, and the grassroots funding and improved accessibility to go along with it. Activity Alliance is proud to be the leading voice in this conversation and it has never been more imperative that we work together to close the fairness gap.
Barry Horne is the CEO of the Activity Alliance. You can read the Achieving Fairness strategy here.