New EFDS report highlights gap between ambition and reality

A new report by the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) has revealed that despite the euphoria of the 2012 Paralympic Games, disabled people are still experiencing a number of barriers which prevent their full participation in physical activity. (September 2013)

EFDS, which is the national body and charity dedicated to disabled people in sport, has undertaken a study into disabled people’s lifestyles and their participation in physical activity. The research highlights some stark findings:

  • There is a clear untapped demand for sport and physical activity, with 70 per cent of those surveyed saying they want to do more.
  • 64 per cent of disabled people surveyed would prefer to take part in sport and physical activity with a mix of disabled and non-disabled people, however only 51 per cent currently do.  Therefore, the research  highlights a clear mismatch between preference and availability.
  • Over half of disabled people surveyed  (51 per cent) are not enjoying their experiences of sport in school, compared to 69 per cent enjoying taking part in sport or physical activity with friends outside of school.
  • Over 60 per cent of those surveyed claimed that either a lack of awareness of opportunities or a lack of available opportunities is what prevents them from taking part in sport and physical activity.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive of EFDS, said ahead of the report release:

“This report highlights that there is still a big gap between ambition and reality when it comes to disabled people’s participation in physical activity. There has been a huge focus on elite level participation and the Paralympics produced fantastic role models but the real work and change is required at the grassroots level. If people are being turned off participating in sport because of their experience at school for example, it creates a much greater challenge to engage people later in life when their behaviours and attitudes towards sports participation are more deeply ingrained. For disabled people who are keen to be active and want to be included, the development, delivery and active promotion of appropriate opportunities is essential. The fact that disabled people’s participation in sport is much lower than non-disabled people is a serious concern, especially as the benefits of physical activity to health and well being are widely known. Our research will help inform policy and practice that enables full participation at every level of sport.”

The importance of the research has also been recognised by leading disability sports figures, who have also commended the findings to others."

Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson DBE was quick to point out the value of the research. She said: 

"EFDS has produced research which is both telling and timely as we seek to broaden opportunities for sporting participation and physical activity amongst disabled people. The findings should be used to influence and drive forward a key area of work.”

Ollie Hynd, MBE, Paralympic, Double World and European Champion swimmer said:

"This research should be carefully considered in order to help make sport and physical activity count for disabled people. Sport and physical activity has played a huge part in my life, and in making me who I am today. It is really important that disabled people have the chance to focus on their abilities, and not disabilities, through sporting opportunities.” 

As well as the barriers to sporting participation, the research also highlights a number of positive experiences which present opportunities for policymakers and sports providers: 

  • 69 per cent of those surveyed stated that playing sport or being active was important to them.
  • The top three reasons people surveyed gave for taking part is ‘because it is fun’, ‘to keep fit’ and ‘to keep healthy’.
  • Whilst  only half of those surveyed enjoyed sport at school, disabled people who attended a special school were more likely to have enjoyed PE at school (69 per cent).
  • The language used to describe opportunities plays a big role in how they will appeal to disabled people.  Different language is needed depending on the target audience.  For example disabled women prefer the descriptive term ‘recreational activities’ whilst disabled men surveyed preferred to use the term ‘sport’. 

Lisa O’Keefe, Director of Sport at Sport England said: 

“Last summer’s Paralympic Games sent a very clear message that disabled people can play and excel at sport. To capitalise upon the momentum generated and convert interest into taking part, it is important for those delivering sport to have a good understanding of peoples behaviours, choices and motivations.  This survey helps by providing valuable insight into the needs and requirements of disabled people, helping to shape our future work in creating more opportunities to enable disabled people to play sport”

To read the different versions, please click the below documents: 

Disabled People s Lifestyle Survey Exec Sum Sept 2013

To read the full report (PDF version) click here:

Disabled People s Lifestyle Survey Report Sept 2013

To read the full report (word version) click here:

Disabled People s Lifestyle Survey Report Sept 2013


Profiles are available for specific groups, such as impairment, age or gender.

All media enquiries should be directed to Sarah Marl by email or by mobile 07764 291671.

All research enquiries regarding this report or others should be directed to Emma Spring by email or mobile 07817 787542


(2) Comments

  • Mental Health Football UK
    31 January 2014, 06:36

    Mental Health Football UK.

    Our organisation is run by volunteers. We believe that through football we can help change the lives of adults with mental health issues. We look to support existing initiatives as well as encourage and support new-start initiatives throughout the UK. Through the advertising / sharing of tournament information, training sessions and let's share best practice.

    We also work closely with groups who arrange Mental Health Football tournaments to give them maximum exposure as well as inviting teams from outwith the local area. By doing so we are helping increase the playing opportunities at a competitive level;

    Football can be used as part of recovery or as part of ongoing therapy
    Find us on Facebook and @soccer_4_all on Twitter

  • Emma Martin
    07 February 2014, 10:57

    Excellent reports we have refreshed a section on our website for Club development inlcuding links to your reports and your 'Access for all' guide. We'll be trying to back it up with some Cumbrian data for Cumbria's sports clubs and NGBs.

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