A new “charter for change” that aims to boost the number of disabled people taking part in sport and physical activity has been launched at the House of Commons.
The Charter for Change was launched by the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), after figures released in January showed a sharp fall in participation by disabled people.
The figures fuelled “rising concern” over low participation rates and an increasing gap between disabled people’s and non-disabled people’s levels of activity.
EFDS said that physical activity can “make a fundamental difference to disabled people’s quality of life, it can increase independence and benefit our economy and yet disabled people’s activity levels remain low”.
In January, new Sport England figures showed 121,700 fewer disabled people over the age of 16 (1.58 million) participating in sporting and physical activities between October 2013 and October 2014, with the fall coming mainly in swimming, athletics and fitness.
Less than half the proportion of disabled people said they were taking part in sport or physical activity for 30 minutes once a week (17.4 per cent), compared to non-disabled people (39.4 per cent).
Research also shows that most disabled people are not as active as they would like to be, and that demand for such activities among disabled people is not being met.
EFDS’s own research in 2013 found seven in 10 disabled people wanted to increase their levels of physical activity.
The new charter calls for everyone involved in providing sport or physical activity to support disabled people to participate; for disabled people to have the same opportunities as non-disabled people to be active throughout their lives; and for communications about sport and physical activity to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people’s participation.
Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, the winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals and EFDS’s honorary president, told the launch event: “The latest participation figures for disabled people show us the need to do things differently.
“There are sports governing bodies who have done some great things, and others that need to do an awful lot better.
“I am really excited about the charter because it is really simple and achievable.
“Much though I am a fan of elite sport and the Paralympics, that’s not what this is about.
“Sport and activity providers have to do more at the grassroots. Everybody needs to be doing more to give disabled people a chance to be fit and healthy.”
Phil Friend, a new member of the EFDS board and a leading disability consultant, said: “This charter is the beginning of something, and it’s really important.
“This is a vital moment in the participation of disabled people, not just actively engaging with sport but making a massive contribution to the way sport is run and how we go about engaging people.
“I think the charter is a brilliant step forward and I really support it.”
EFDS now plans to ask political parties, sport and physical activity providers, and other organisations to sign up to the charter.