Friday 3rd December is ‘International Day of People with Disabilities’ the 2021 theme is ‘Fighting for rights in the post-COVID era'.

This year, we are celebrating the challenges, barriers and opportunities for people who live with disabilities, in the context of a global pandemic.

The pandemic has disproportionately affected people with disabilities. Almost two thirds of people who have died from coronavirus in the UK have a disability. As well as being at increased risk from coronavirus, the pandemic has also had a worse impact on activity levels of disabled people than the wider population. This is no doubt in part due to the number of people who were shielding, now classified as extremely clinically vulnerable, as well as those who made the choice to stay home because of the increased risks. They stopped participating in activities, many have experienced deconditioning so starting again is more challenging, and the impact on mental wellbeing has been significant. But even before the pandemic people with disabilities and health conditions were less likely to be physically active.

Living Sport, in partnership with the Ability Plus network has spent over 10 years creating inclusive and accessible opportunities for disabled people in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. A glance at the local Inclusive Activity map points to the excellent provision for impairment specific sports including blind and partially sighted, deaf, amputee and wheelchair sports, alongside inclusive activity opportunities for people of all ages.

But we want to do more to address the widening gap in activity levels for disabled people. That is why in 2022 in collaboration with all our partners we will be launching the first countywide ‘Disability Physical Activity Strategy’. Our vision is to have a “Collaborative response to creating the conditions for disabled people to be active”

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So much work has already happened to ensure that sport is accessible and available to disabled people. But now we need to take our work to the next level to build people’s confidence and motivation to live more active lifestyles, with opportunities beyond traditional sport. We want this strategy to be a plan of action, complimenting existing plans across sectors and geography, and providing accountability for us and our partners to take our work with disabled people to a new level and really affect change for disabled people to inspire and enable activity as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Far fewer disabled people are currently active compared to non-disabled people and the gap has widened by around 10% during the pandemic. Yet nearly 70% of disabled people say they would like to be active, but they are telling us there are still many barriers in their way including access to facilities and places to be active, not enough inclusive and accessible opportunities and not enough support to get to places and to take part in activities. The strategy will look at the skills, support and capital disabled people need to move more, the environments that make this possible, and the workforce who can make it happen. Across these the focus will be on what needs to change to make things better for disabled people.

We are currently in the engagement stage of developing the strategy and talking to lots of different groups and partners to develop the details ready for launching delivery in 2022. If you haven’t yet had a chance to have your say and would like to find out more, please contact Rebecca Evans, Living Sport, Partnership Manager or 07739 655062.