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Advocating for the disabled in physical activity

How the activities sector is advocating for the disabled in physical activity

December 15, 2022

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Earlier this month, we celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. The activities sector has always put those with disabilities at the centre of its packages. That’s why we are highlighting how the sector advocates for and provides programmes for disabled or injured people.

On The Drive Phase podcast, we had the opportunity to speak to representatives from Activity Alliance, Access Sport and Rugby League Cares. Whether they are disabled, injured or from communities that simply don’t have access to physical activity in the way they should, these organisations are at the forefront of bringing physical and emotional support to the most disadvantaged communities.


Supporting social and disability inclusion

Access Sports was established in 2004 to bring the transformational benefits of sport and physical activity to all communities. They have continued to highlight the different ways that communities can be excluded from sports. Focussing on disadvantaged and disabled children and young people, they provide inclusive programmes, equipping and supporting community sports clubs, organisations and volunteers.

Access Sport

Their plans for expansion highlight the areas in sports that still need their services. By working with local partners in different cities, for example, they can create new offerings based on what support those communities need. One of their key areas of support is working with National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and the division across their sporting areas. CEO of Access Sports, Helen Rowbotham, added:

“Most of our work is a combination of social and disability inclusion. We particularly understand that governing bodies which essentially divide everything across their sport, have the best intentions and plans. Yet in reality, they don’t often have sufficient resources to really throw in with social and disability inclusion. That’s where we come in. We bring the expertise that they need to deliver the programmes in the most effective way.”


Creating a fairer environment

The Activity Alliance was established in 1998 and has always advocated for disabled people in sports and physical activity. The organisation has begun to assert its strategic goals in the last five years. Their main goal is to achieve a brand of fairness that gives non-disabled people the same likelihood of being active as non-disabled people.

Activity Alliance

Post-COVID-19, Activity Alliance began creating a clear structure of what a future for disabled people in activity and sport should look like. It was important for them to fine-tune who they should be influencing and what areas they should work in. Strengthening their strategy meant providing a better understanding of how they could create an impact. CEO Barry Horne added:

“We’ve set up two big strategic goals. One is changing attitudes towards disabled people in sports and activities. And the other is embedding inclusive practice. Helping people understand how to do it in the workforce, for their processes, systems and frameworks. We’ve gone from having a strong sports development structure to having a mixed team that doesn’t just deliver but advocates and supports.”


Supporting injured rugby players

Rugby League Cares has taken the legacy of the Rugby league and used it to establish a charity that supports players. The original Benevolent Fund came in response to a young Academy player, Matt King, who was seriously injured while playing. Those most passionate about the sport decided that something positive needed to be done to secure and protect players in the future.

Rugby League Cares

Unlike organisations that seek the transformational nature of the sport, one of the core parts of Rugby League Cares is its wide remit. From supporting the history and stories of the support to encouraging mental and physical health. Rugby League Cares brings together all the activities of charities dedicated to the sport. CEO Chris Rostron added:

“The work of the Benevolent Fund continues today within Rugby League Cares… There was a feeling that if we brought all the work from charities in the sport together, charities wouldn’t need to feed off each other but could regrow as a whole.”


To hear more about how the activities sector is improving lives for disabled people in sports, check out The Drive Phase podcast! Host James Moore sits down with the movers and the shakers of the sector to find out just how transformative the industry really is. Listen and subscribe anywhere you get your podcasts.

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