Since 2010 the disability charity Within Reach and Sheffield City Council have worked in partnership to secure funding from Sport England to support a range of volunteer-led disability sport and physical activity projects across the City. During this period over 7000 people have been engaged in hundreds of activity sessions delivered by 55 separate clubs in venues across Sheffield.
Whilst much is known about the reach of these projects in terms of numbers, less is known about the personal impacts of involvement. Using visual and participatory research methods, Shortwork worked with participants, their families and carers, volunteers and coaches, to draw out the benefits and barriers to engagement in sport for people of all ages with a range of disabilities living in Sheffield.
Benefits to participants
- Improved physical health including fitness, stamina, strength and energy levels, reversal of health issues including obesity and diabetes, and easing of long-term conditions such as cystic fibrosis and sleep apnea.
- Improved functional skills such as walking, running and coordination, and improved quality of life as a result of increased mobility and fitness.
- Improved social and communication skills through interaction with coaches, volunteers and participants.
- A sense of identity and belonging, where everyone feels safe to be themselves.
- Independence that comes from being away from parents and carers and gaining the support of friends.
- Exposure to life-enriching opportunities including new sports and activities, competition, and travel; and new skills such as refereeing, coaching and leadership, leading to voluntary paid work.
- A long-term focus, structure and meaning to life.
Barriers to participation
- Poor accessibility due to a lack of information and lack of inclusiveness in the design and management of venues and mainstream clubs.
- Cost for participants on low incomes.
- Discrimination, prejudice and exclusion experienced by people with disabilities and their families in all aspects of life including education, health and social services.
- Lack of parental support due to limited knowledge or motivation, and the pressures of juggling work, family and caring responsibilities.
- Lack of public funding to support new and existing clubs and activity sessions.
- Lack of awareness or commitment among decision makers to invest in sport and physical activity for disabled people.
- Increased reliance on parents and volunteers to fill the breach.
- Lack of integration with health and social care services.
Actions for individuals
- Talk about it with members of your community.
- Take action to raise awareness through a people powered guerilla marketing campaign.
- Support and enthuse carers and personal assistants.
- Call out and challenge poor accessibility or bad service.
Actions for organisations
- Coordinate provision across public, private and voluntary sector partners.
- Develop a marketing strategy to promote clubs, events and individual athletes.
- Involve participants, parents and volunteers in decision making.
- Provide support to volunteers.
You can download the full report for free here.
Ali Jennings produced a film featuring one of brilliant clubs supporting young people with disabilities in the City – the Derek Dooley FC.