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03 Feb 2021 120

Activity Alliance's research reveals pandemic's true impact on disabled people's activity

Twice as many disabled people felt coronavirus ‘greatly reduced’ their ability to do sport or physical activity compared to non-disabled people, according to new research published today (3 February) by Activity Alliance.

The leading voice for disabled people in sport has found from its Annual Disability and Activity Survey – which explores disabled and non-disabled people’s activity levels – that the pandemic is ‘not only widening existing inequalities for disabled people but creating new ones too’.

Other key findings include:

  • Almost a quarter stated that they had not received enough information about how to be active during the pandemic.
  • Respondents said the lack of activity has led to both their physical and mental health being harder to manage. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation were frequently voiced.
  • A fear of contracting the virus, the impact on their health, a lack of space and support to be able to exercise safely at home, have become significant barriers for disabled people.

Check out the annual survey.

Activity Alliance cites the new findings as a huge set-back for the sector as activity levels and perceptions among disabled people were improving before COVID-19.

Its call-to-action is to urge decision makers in sport and leisure to prioritise disabled people as they strive to recover from the pandemic and prevent the long-term effects of inactivity.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive at Activity Alliance, commented on the latest research:

The benefits of being active are clear. It matters for everyone’s physical and mental health and has enormous impact on our daily lives. So, it is never acceptable that disabled people should not reap these benefits too.

“We appreciate we have a national crisis on our hands and leaders need to make tough decisions in sport and leisure. But we have not heard near enough about the impact on disabled people’s lives during the pandemic. No disabled person should ever feel forgotten or overlooked in the communities we all serve.

“That’s why this insight is so important. We have listened to disabled people and urge decision makers to do the same, and act swiftly upon the findings. If we do not act now, we will witness inequalities widen even further, or unthinkably they may become irreversible. Prioritising disabled people is the only way to prevent this from happening. Every plan, every action and every penny spent must be tested against its impact on disabled people’s activity.”

In response to the pandemic, UK Coaching has been providing coaches with access to key information and advice, including how to deliver great coaching online, so that they can continue to get, and keep, the nation moving.

The lead charity for coaching in the UK has also just launched a Coaching Through Covid Hub that aims to empower coaches to keep coaching effectively and hone their skills until Government restrictions are lifted.

UK Coaching Head of Policy and Impact Heather Douglas, said:

The benefits of physical activity for all are well documented, linking to increased physical and mental well-being. UK Coaching is working hard to ensure that coaches, whether actively coaching or currently dormant, have access to resources and courses that give them the confidence to make their coaching sessions more inclusive of disabled people, now, during the pandemic, and in the future.

“Our priority work is to tackle inequalities in sport and physical activity and put the coach at the heart of our activity, this includes the launch of our Coaching Advisory Panel this week.”

Activity Alliance’s survey was conducted from June to September 2020, with almost 2000 disabled and non-disabled adults in England aged 16+ taking part.

The full findings are available to view at activityalliance.org.uk/annual-survey.

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