Leonard Cheshire Disability survey paints bleak picture for disabled sport access

2 August 2017

  • 60% of disabled respondents rarely or never take part in sport or do physical activity
  • 66% didn’t find it easy to access their local gyms
  • triple gold medal winning Paralympic swimmer Peter Hull says ‘more needs to be done’

Residents using accessible bikes

A survey by leading charity Leonard Cheshire Disability has revealed that despite the huge success of the recent World Para Athletics Championships, access to sport at local level is still a problem for disabled people.

Five years on from the London Paralympics, the biggest event since was rightly heralded as a roaring success, with total crowds in excess of 300,000 attending the week-long festival of disabled sport and a new generation of athletes gaining recognition.

But the situation for disabled people with a long term disability or health condition at local level paints a bleak picture with 60% of over 100 respondents — ranging from 13 to over 65 years of age — ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ taking part in sport or physical activity and 66% finding their local gym difficult to access.

Only 20% of respondents took part in sport or did physical activity twice a week or more and among the anecdotal evidence was this from 18-year-old Chloe Robson from Choppington in Northumberland:

‘I can access the swimming pool via a hoist but cannot do this independently.

‘I am unable to access any sports. As far as I can find online there are no wheelchair sports opportunities in my area.’

Debbie Martin from Bath added:

‘I was banned from my local athletics club when I declared on the membership form that I was disabled.

‘Apparently being disabled makes me a risk to young athletes as I may scare them. I’m currently taking them to court.’

Among the respondents was triple gold medal winning Paralympian Peter Hull, who won his medals at Barcelona 1992:

‘Accessing swimming pools in the 1970s and 1980s was difficult but I’m pleased to say it has got a lot better with the introduction of building legislation.

‘However, it's still not perfect and I feel more consultation needs to take place, at the planning stages.

‘I have seen a positive change, particularly since 2012, in attitudes to participation in adapted sport.

‘A lot of this can been put down to training of coaches and facility staff members, but feel more can be done.’

Neil Heslop, Chief Executive Leonard Cheshire Disability commented:

‘Access to local sport should be a right for disabled people.

‘In light of the success of the recent para athletics, it’s particularly disappointing to hear anecdotal evidence of inertia amongst young people who want to access sport.

‘Where are we going to find the next generation of para super stars if kids feel unable to simply find their way round their local sports centres?’

Media enquiries

For more information contact Jonathon Sim on jonathan.sim@leonardcheshire.org or call 07568 466 143. Out of hours: 07903 949 388. General press office: 020 3242 0399.