Beyond 2012: Our pledge for an active and inclusive nation

In this piece, Barry Horne, EFDS's Chief Executive, talks about the organisation's commitment to a meaningful Games legacy in sport and physical activity for disabled people:

 

I'm sure like me, you found the London 2012 Paralympics to be a fantastic celebration- not just of sport, but of disabled people themselves. This should be a transformational time for disabled people in this country, but the hard work needs to continue. We are committed to playing our part in ensuring a true legacy from the Games, with many more disabled people getting active, staying active and being more confident in themselves.

A far greater media profile of disabled people was an obvious key benefit of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, with Channel 4 promising more coverage than ever before. We cannot begin to quantify the huge impact that so many positive images of disabled people will have had on the self-esteem and body confidence of disabled people, who are still largely overlooked and under-represented in the mainstream media.

Channel 4 deserves credit for the way they embedded their passion for the Games throughout their whole delivery strategy. They created the 'Superhumans' campaign, which showcased the athletes abilities and unique stories to the world, but also drove inclusion throughout their own organisation and planning.

You may have spotted our own promotional "Pass the Baton" campaign across London Underground stations during the Paralympic period. A striking poster of a disabled athlete amplified the strapline - Sport is for all. And we believe this should be the case beyond 2012. It promoted our charity status too, as without fundraising and sponsorship we will not be able to achieve our vision for disabled people to be active for life.

With such a prestigious showcase of talent on home soil from 29 August until 9 September, we realise that both disabled and non-disabled people will be inspired to take part in more inclusive opportunities. As the national sports body for disabled people in England, the EFDS, champions opportunities for disabled people to enjoy sport, supporting the sport and physical activity sectors to be more inclusive.

Our vision is that disabled people are active for life. To achieve this, one of our goals will be supporting more disabled people in different ways to realise the benefits of being active. This support should be available at whatever level they choose as only a small minority can take part in or reach Paralympic level.

For many spectators who attended the Paralympics, it will be about changing the perceptions of disabled people and towards them. This is a huge area of concern as recent EFDS research has shown. Our recent research identified three key barriers to participation for disabled people- physical, logistical and psychological.

Psychological barriers came out as the biggest problem in relation to attitudes, opinions and perceptions preventing participation in sport. This is something we intend to work alongside partners to change, shaping our work through insight to be evidence-led by what disabled people want and need in sport and physical activity.

Our team is working hard to promote the importance of inclusion and equality in sport for disabled people. We want to ensure we not only make the 2012 Paralympics a success for Britain, but create a sustainable legacy for everyone to embrace sport and physical activity as part of their everyday life. This legacy takes shape through our programmes, which provide a platform for creating opportunities and role models for all disabled people- young and old alike- grass roots participation and a competitive pathway.

Playground to Podium (P2P) provides a means of identifying and supporting potentially talented young disabled athletes. It has also enabled the development of an infrastructure to support more young disabled people to engage, remain and excel within sport. EFDS's events programme organised by Disability Sports Events has nurtured talent and we are proud that three champions from our National Junior Athletics and National Junior Swimming,  spotted through the Playground to Podium Initiative, represented ParalympicsGB in the London 2012 Games.

They are important role models for other young disabled people. Sophie Kamlish and Jamie Carter from athletics and now multi-Paralympic medallist, swimmer Hannah Russell, are considered among the best in the world now.  Hannah, 16, participated in five events in the S12 category and achieved a silver in the 400m freestyle and bronzes in the 100m butterfly and 100m backstroke. We hope our part in their journey has been influential in achieving success.

The physical activity element within EFDS is through the Inclusive Fitness, funded by the Department of Health. It leads the way in providing accessible exercise provision and in addressing sedentary behaviour among disabled people. The Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) has been established for over ten years, with a national coverage of 400 IFI Mark accredited gym facilities. It is recognised that the IFI Mark is fundamental in addressing inequality in physical activity, to reach inactive populations and raise awareness of the benefits of exercise.

Recently, we developed a promotional campaign for Inclusive Fitness with positive body imagery of disabled people exercising. We are aware that one hurdle to participation is the lack of disabled people portrayed or considered in marketing and other services. This creates many psychological barriers. The Paralympics have provided an unparalleled opportunity to tackle this issue, to transform the way many disabled people see themselves, and to inspire more disabled people to take up sport.

All of us- sports bodies, the fitness industry, the media, funders and disabled people- must now work together to realise this potential and ensure a lasting legacy from this amazing festival of sport.

We look forward to working with you all.

 

EFDS are currently running our own survey to understand the impact of the Games. Please help us to share your views by completing it here.

For more information on our work, click here or email Sarah Marl