Today, English Federation of Disability Sport’s Charter for Change was unveiled by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Gerry Sutcliffe MP in Houses of Parliament in London. The purpose of the Charter for Change is to encourage organizations to assist in efforts to get people with disabilities more engaged in sport in light of declining numbers in the past few years. Grey-Thompson is the organization’s honorary president, and Sutcliffe is the Chair of the Disability Sports All Party Parliamentary Group.
To accomplish the goal of reversing this participation trend, English Federation of Disability Sport says the charter asks organizations to do three things:
- Everyone involved in providing sport or physical activity will support disabled people to participate.
- Disabled people will have the same opportunity as non-disabled people to be active throughout their lives.
- All communications about sport and physical activity will promote positive public attitudes towards disabled people’s participation.
English Federation of Disability Sport provides some specific guidance on how organizations can work on each point. The first point includes working with people with disabilities to develop programs aimed at this community, training volunteers and employees to work with people with disabilities, engaging in specific marketing activities aimed at this community, improving disability access at venues, and providing opportunities to participate in sporting events at their highest level.
The second point suggests that organizations remove funding barriers such as age or ability that make it difficult for people with disabilities to participate, support government policies that ease and do not hinder accessibility of sport for people with disabilities, providing additional training for teachers and coaches for working with people with disabilities, and working with carers to facilitate people’s participation in sport.
The third point asks the government to sponsor a campaign to encourage people with disabilities to get active, to encourage sport journalists and other media outlets to regularly cover disability sport as part of their general sport related news, and for disability sport providers to regularly explain the benefits of sport participation in their normal communications.
FDS Board member Dr Phil Friend OBE was quoted about the Charter in relation to the unveiling as saying, “Disabled people should have every opportunity to be as active as non-disabled people. As one in five of our population is a disabled person- that is a large proportion of everyone’s community. Physical activity can make a big difference to disabled people’s quality of life, increase independence and benefit our economy and yet disabled people’s activity levels remain low. We all need to work together better and start making the changes which disabled people are telling us they require to be more active.”
The Charter was unveiled against a backdrop of high interest and declining participation. A 2013 survey in England found that 7 of 10 people with disabilities in the country wanted to increase their physical activities. Another study found that people with disabilities engage in less physical activity than their able-bodied counterparts. At the same time with high interest, participation numbers are decreasing as October 2013 to October 2014, there was a decrease of 121,700 people participating in sport. The Amateur Swimming Association reported that in the past year, week to week participation of disability swimmers has declined by 37,000 even as people with disabilities indicate this is one of the sports they would most like to participate in.