National charity Activity Alliance is calling time on negative perceptions through its campaign, ‘Who says?’. The leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity wants disabled children and young people to have the same opportunities to be active as their non-disabled peers.

Who says? draws attention to just some of the negative perceptions that can impact disabled children and young people’s opportunities to be active. Activity Alliance’s research highlights that there is significant work to do for it to be a level playing field for disabled children and young people in sport and activity.   Only a quarter (25 per cent) of disabled children say they take part in sport and activity all of the time at school. This is compared to 41 per cent of non-disabled children.

Who says? focuses on four perceptions about disabled children and young people. The perceptions arise from the charity’s research – My Active Future report:

  1. Young disabled people should sit out of PE lessons
  2. Disabled people can’t be leaders
  3. Disabled children can’t grow up to be active adults
  4. Families can’t be active together

The campaign is brought to life through four short films. Who says? provides straight-talking and upbeat insight from a mixture of disabled and non-disabled children and adults on what the perceptions mean to them.

Disabled people of all ages have countless personal experiences that lead to marginalisation, low confidence, and inactivity. Who says? empowers people of all ages, on and off the field of play, to challenge their own and others’ perceptions.

Kirsty Clarke, Director of Innovation and Business Development for Activity Alliance, said:

“We’re delighted to launch this year’s campaign after two years in a pandemic affecting disabled children and adults the most. Changing attitudes is core to achieving our vision - fairness for disabled people in sport and activity. Who says? raises awareness of negative perceptions that are ingrained in our society. If we want a nation in the future that is inclusive and active, we need to address our own and others’ views.

“Everyone deserves the right to be active, how and where they wish to be. The positive messages in our campaign are authentic and give a taste of how negativity is affecting real people. We need more people to join us as we build a movement that pushes for change and fairness.” 

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive for Sport England and Government Disability and Access Ambassador for sport and physical activity, said: 

“Tackling the inequalities that disabled people face when playing sport and getting active is central to our strategy, Uniting the Movement. And there is no aspect of that more important than ensuring positive experiences for all at a young age. 

“Disabled children and young people have been disproportionately negatively impacted by the pandemic. So we absolutely welcome this campaign. Challenging perceptions and breaking down barriers so that more disabled young people have positive experiences of being active that will last into their adult lives is essential.” 

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Chloe Smith, said:

“Sport is vitally important for our physical and mental health, and everyone deserves an equal opportunity to get active.

“We know common misconceptions can prevent participation in sport and I’m pleased to support this campaign to help remove these barriers for young disabled people.

“Like Activity Alliance, the Government is committed to levelling up the playing field for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions by working with Sport England to address the inequalities they face.”

Rainbow Mbuangi, Who says? film contributor, said:

“It was great to be involved in the Who says? films. Challenging people’s attitudes and perceptions of disabled young people is really important to me as a young person. I believe that everyone is equal and should receive the same amount of help within society. I want to grow up in a society that is friendly, inclusive and thinks more positively about disabled children and adults. As a totally blind sportsman my   ambition is to continue as a young leader and role model in sport and show other young disabled people that anything is possible. Sport has transformed my life – who says we can’t let more disabled children have the same positive experience?”

Activity Alliance wants everyone to get involved in the campaign and join the movement by posting your own experiences using the campaigns hashtag, #WhoSays. Share Activity Alliance’s Who says? films and make your own to add your voice to the campaign. To find out more, please visit the Who says? campaign page. Follow the #WhoSays campaign on Twitter.