Changing Reality For Disabled People By Challenging Perceptions

The Activity Alliance has released new research which gives some revealing insights into the attitudes of non-disabled on inclusive activities with the disabled. While the results do show some much-welcomed signs of improvement, people’s ingrained preconceived perceptions are still creating barriers when it comes to changing the reality of disability inclusion in sports.

A survey was sent to over 2000 non-disabled adults and focused on the idea of inclusive activities, which involve non-disabled and disabled people taking part together. The responses were gathered to examine perceptions and experiences. The results present a mixed picture, highlighting that the perceptions of non-disabled people may be stopping them from participating in mixed inclusive activities.

The results show that there is a positive opportunity to alter perceptions via sporting activity. Nearly three-quarters of non-disabled people said they were open to the prospect of participating in an active recreation activity or sport with disabled individuals. Non-disabled people did understand the positive impact being part of inclusive activities may have on themselves. Some of the benefits reported were that they could meet new people, learn to feel more at ease around disabled people, and understand more about disabled people.

Around 25% of respondents associated disabled individuals with being equal to the non-disabled – this could be the result of increased awareness to some of the discrimination disabled individuals face. Survey participants thought people with behavioural conditions, physical impairments and mental health problems to be the groups facing the greatest prejudice today in the UK.

However, respondents showed unfounded concerns for some of the negative consequences taking part in mixed activities might have on disabled people’s wellbeing. The top three concerns were disabled people might get injured, non-disabled individuals might say something offensive and disabled people may feel patronised. The inconsistency in much of the language employed by providers of mixed activities in promotional material was evident. 67% of respondents said they have no prior knowledge of the meaning of the term ‘inclusive sport’. 74% of respondents did, however, show awareness that inclusive sports are ‘for everyone’.

The survey results revealed that many people have unfamiliarity and inexperience with disabled folk and a general lack of disability awareness. Disabled individuals make up a large proportion of UK society. In fact, one in every five people has some form of disability. Yet, just 14% of survey respondents (non-disabled people) were aware of having taken part in physical activity or sport with disabled people. And, just 48% reported knowing a disabled person. That’s why charities such as Treloar are so important with regards to inclusiveness.

The survey findings add to the growing research work the Activity Alliance is doing to gain insights into the barriers to being active disabled people face and the perceptions of influencers.

The Lifestyle Report

Finding from the Lifestyle Report highlighted strong evidence of a mismatch between the ways disabled people like to be active and the availability of opportunities. In the report, 64% of disabled people surveyed said that they would prefer to participate in mixed sporting activities with non-disabled and disabled people. However, only 51% said that they currently did.

The Motivate Me Report

In the Motivate Me report, disabled individuals also echoed the preference for mixed settings. The report showed that a large percentage of disabled individuals are more likely to take part in physical activity opportunities that take into account the things that matter the most to them. Such things include maintaining health, progressing in life, becoming more independent and building friendships.

The Chief Executive of Activity Alliance made a statement about the report. In the statement he explained how there was a need for more meaningful opportunities that respond to demands to increase active disabled people numbers. He also explained that while it’s true that every disabled person is different and some don’t want to take part in mixed settings, the Activity Alliance’s insights show that most disabled folks want the opportunity to get active alongside their non-disabled family and friends. He went on to explain that the positive impacts of Activity Alliance’s own programmes, such as “Get Out Get Active” are clear and encourage providers to expand beyond segregated sessions. A wider range of activities means more choice for everyone.

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