Mark’s latest article published for Parallel London, about the importance of inclusion. “We want to do things together.” Sam.
Statistics show disabled people to be the least active group in the UK.
The ‘Disabled People’s Lifestyle Report’ from September 2013, found that there is clear untapped demand for physical activity and sport within the community with 70 per cent of the disabled people surveyed stating they would like to be more active. The report also found that 64 per cent of the disabled people surveyed would prefer to take part in sport and physical activity with a mix of disabled and non-disabled people. However, at the time of the report only 51 per cent did so. The research highlighted a clear mismatch between people’s preferences and the availability of opportunities. Over 60 per cent of those surveyed claimed that either a lack of awareness of opportunities or a lack of available opportunities is what prevents them from taking part in sport and physical activity. Get Out Get Active is aimed at addressing these issues.
Get Out Get Active is a programme to encourage more disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy being active together and has been introduced by a consortium of partners led by the English Federation of Disability Sport. The £4.5m programme will concentrate on ‘fun and inclusive activities’ over a period of three years.
As the husband of a T12 paraplegic and somebody who has been involved in disability sport in various roles since 1991, I can relate very strongly to the finding that many disabled people want to take part in physical activity with a mix of disabled and non-disabled people.
My wife, Samantha, is a former No 1 Brazilian wheelchair tennis player and very active, but the majority of her current activities are with non disabled family and friends. In her wheelchair tennis career the competition was with other disabled people. Outside of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour and since retiring, the vast majority of Sam’s physical activity and sport is done with non disabled people. The list of activities and sports she has tried is extensive:
Archery, Basketball, Camping, Canoeing, Cycling, Dance, Fitness classes, Golf, Gym, Roller Skating, Snorkelling, Swimming, Surfing, Table Tennis, Karate, ‘Stand Up’ Paddle, Tennis, Pushing/Walking, Trampolining and Yoga.
As a couple we want to do activities together and this certainly applies to our nieces who don’t see any barriers to the activities that we can do as a group. When planning to go roller skating the question came up as to whether the venue would allow Sam to go round in her wheelchair. The younger niece who must have been seven at the time said “of course it will be ok as she already has wheels”. Our nieces love to do activities with us as a group. We cycle, run, push, attend fitness classes, go swimming and play tennis as a family. We take part in these activities in the house, garden, parks, the countryside, and in sport clubs and leisure centres.
In the words of an 11 year old niece “I like the challenge of going on cycling adventures with Sam and solving how we will get over and round obstacles like rough ground, up and down slopes, across narrow bridges, over ditches and occasionally up and down steps using teamwork. When we go swimming, I don’t notice that Sam has a disability. She is such a good swimmer”.
We believe strongly in the benefits of inclusive activity and sport, but not just for the physical benefits. Exercise and social interaction are beneficial for the wellbeing of all family members. Exercise and sport for disabled people does not have to be in disability specific sessions. People can go for a walk/push with non-disabled family and friends of a similar fitness level. Some people may prefer to participate with people with a similar impairment. Some may want a combination of both, complementing the time spent with family and friends; and time with people with a similar impairment sharing thoughts and ideas. The key is that the disabled person is in a position to make choices about the most suitable environment(s) for them to exercise and play sport.
To conclude, everybody should Get Out and Get Active. I am off for a run followed by some yoga.
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