Pre-Paralympic Games poll shows disabled people feel shut out of sport and exercise

22 February 2016

  • 41% of disabled people say there are no opportunities suitable for them
  • 2012 medallist Ben Rushgrove calls for investment in sport for everyone to mark the road to the Rio 2016 games 

Infographic: Barriers to sport and exercise. 41% of disabled adults say a lack of suitable activities stops them taking part. Find out more at, leisure centres and other sports facility providers in the UK are failing to provide activities many disabled people feel they can participate in, Leonard Cheshire Disability has found, as a new ComRes poll is released today.  

Over half (57%) of the disabled people surveyed in our pre-Paralympic Games investigation said they had completed no moderate intensity physical activity at all in the last seven days.

In stark contrast, just 24% of non-disabled adults made the same claim.

‘A lack of exercise provision suitable for disabled people’ was the main barrier for disabled people, with inaccessible facilities (26%) and fear of injury (21%) also named.

Leonard Cheshire Disability chief executive Clare Pelham said:

‘At the start of this Paralympic year, let’s put this right.

‘Every January millions of us resolve to get fit. And by February, we are flagging.

‘Imagine how much harder it would be to keep your new year’s resolution if, when you arrive at the gym, none of the equipment is suitable for you — because of your disability.

‘Not only will you be less fit, but you will be excluded from a fun activity with your friends.’ 

Infographic: Barriers to sport and exercise. 21% of disabled adults say fear of injury stops them taking part. Only 8% of non-disabled adults say the same. Find out more at Rushgrove, London 2012 Paralympic medallist in the T36 200m sprint, said:

‘Sport is a powerful tool and when used properly it can change people's lives, giving them friends, confidence, and empowerment to improve their lives beyond sport.

‘From what I have seen and heard, Leonard Cheshire Disability and charities like them work hard to create sporting opportunities.

‘With another Paralympic games just around the corner comes another opportunity to inspire, motivate and invest in all sport for everyone.’

Ann Birtwistle, who creates sporting opportunities for residents at Leonard Cheshire Disability's Greenhill House care home in Somerset, said:

‘The findings mirror what those we support in our homes have been telling us for years.

‘Without the provision of equipment for inclusive sports such as boccia (a bowls-type game played by people with all physical conditions), or the investment in disability-trained support staff, exercise and sport are often considered "out of reach" by those with severe disabilities.

‘We would like to see more consultation with organisations such as Leonard Cheshire Disability to ensure providers meet the standards necessary for disabled people to have confidence in participation.’ 

Media enquiries

For media enquiries, including interview requests for Paralympians Ben Rushgrove and Nigel Murray, and others with insights on disability sport, please email Barney Cullum on 020 3242 0313. 

Notes to editors

  1. Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries.
  2. Data: The Leonard Cheshire Disability/ComRes Disability and Exercise Research part one tables can be viewed online. ComRes interviewed 2,051 nationally representative GB adults online aged 18+, 474 of whom have a long standing mental/physical condition or disability. Respondents were interviewed between 14 and 15 October 2015. Data tables are available on the ComRes website. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. 
  3. Ben Rushgrove is a British Paralympic medal-winning T36 sprinter who set a world record for the T36 200m in 2007 and became the first athlete to break 25 seconds for this event. Ben won medals at both the Beijing and London Paralympic Games. 
  4. Greenhill House is a home (with nursing care), providing a range of services for adults with physical disabilities.