Man working out with weights (Credit Activity Alliance)
Activity Alliance is seriously concerned about the potential long-term damage on the nation’s least active.

A leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity is urging leaders to make disabled people a priority now to prevent the long-term effects of inactivity resulting from the pandemic.

The call from Activity Alliance to prioritise disabled people in sport and leisure comes on the day it releases its latest Annual Survey, which shows the pandemic’s true impact on disabled people’s activity.

The national charity exists to reduce the fairness gap between disabled and non-disabled people’s activity levels and it has said that it is seriously concerned about the potential long-term damage on the nation’s least active.

New research in its latest Annual Disability and Activity Survey shows that twice as many disabled people felt that coronavirus greatly reduced their ability to do sport or physical activity compared to non-disabled people.

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Its survey found that disabled people’s lives have been the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Accounting for two-thirds of the deaths from coronavirus, the charity states that this national crisis for public health has been felt most sharply by disabled people with many, who count for one in five of the population, feeling more fearful and ignored.

The survey results show how the pandemic is not only widening existing inequalities for disabled people but creating new ones too. A key finding was that 29 per cent of disabled people felt that they do not have the opportunity to be as active as they want to, compared to 44 per cent of non-disabled people.

Almost a quarter stated that they had not received enough information about how to be active during the pandemic.

Respondents also reported that the lack of activity has led to both their physical and mental health being harder to manage. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation were frequently voiced.

The survey also revealed that a fear of contracting the virus, the impact on their health, a lack of space and support to be able to exercise safely at home, have become significant barriers for disabled people.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive at Activity Alliance, said that the benefits of being active are clear. “It matters for everyone’s physical and mental health and has enormous impact on our daily lives. So, it is never acceptable that disabled people should not reap these benefits too.

“We appreciate we have a national crisis on our hands and leaders need to make tough decisions in sport and leisure. But we have not heard near enough about the impact on disabled people’s lives during the pandemic. No disabled person should ever feel forgotten or overlooked in the communities we all serve.

“If we do not act now, we will witness inequalities widen even further, or unthinkably they may become irreversible. Prioritising disabled people is the only way to prevent this from happening. Every plan, every action and every penny spent must be tested against its impact on disabled people’s activity.”

The Annual Survey follows Sport England launching its 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement, which highlights its ambition to tackle inequalities, especially for inactive people. The organisation has pinpointed the need to invest in those who need it the most, with fairness and equity at the heart.

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive at Sport England, said on this latest research: “We take our responsibility in tackling these inequalities and supporting organisations like Activity Alliance extremely seriously and working to remove barriers and make activity more accessible for disabled people underpins our new strategy.”

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