Serious financial constraints are preventing people living with disabilities from participating in sport, according to a major new study.
Researchers from University of the West of Scotland (UWS) have conducted one of the largest investigations ever undertaken in Scotland, into sport and physical activity participation among people with a disability.
A survey – which received more than 500 valid responses from individuals and organisations – suggested that issues such as the cost of participation and equipment, and concerns about losing benefits, were significant barriers.
Respondents also cited a lack of self-confidence, and societal attitudes, as major reasons for a lack of participation in sport and physical activity.
The study also identified a postcode lottery when it comes to accessing facilities, with geography playing a large role in determining access to opportunities.
Those living in rural areas, or north or south of the central belt, found access to activities particularly challenging – with some relying on expensive taxi journeys to access facilities.
Study lead Professor Richard Davison said: “This research project was highly successful in gaining insights from both individuals and stakeholders, and I would like to express my gratitude to my University team, the Observatory for Sport in Scotland, the Peter Harrison Foundation, the stakeholder group who contributed to shaping the project, and the more than 500 individuals and organisations who participated and shared their perspectives on disability and sport in Scotland.
“Through this project, we have obtained the most comprehensive understanding thus far of the barriers that hinder individuals with disabilities in Scotland from fully engaging in various community sports activities, as well as the challenges they face in maintaining their involvement. We hope that the government and other stakeholders will find valuable lessons from this research, to help enhance participation in the future.”
The study was carried out by the UWS Centre for Culture, Sport and Events, on behalf of the Observatory for Sport in Scotland.
The study was also the first to use the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) system to evaluate function regarding sport and physical activity in Scotland, which enabled a level of detail not currently available in Scottish national surveys and data previously.
Professor Gayle McPherson, the Centre’s Director, added: “This first-of-its-kind research has provided significant new evidence for those in sport governing bodies in terms of coaching needs, government roles, in terms of funding and sport policy and for those at an international level with responsibility for elite parasport classification.
“It provides a detailed analysis of the types of challenges and opportunities for development and provision that could be made available for those with a disability who wish to pursue sport participation – whether it is on a recreational or a competitive basis; thus potentially increasing participation rates for individuals with disabilities.”
Gemma Lumsdaine – a GB wheelchair rugby talent pathway athlete – said: “The only way to increase participation in parasport is to understand the challenges people face. If we don’t, we won’t be able to adapt practises accordingly to support more people who wish to get involved in sport.
“It’s not just about supporting elite athletes – we need to understand the issues faced at all levels, to ensure a rich, diverse parasport environment. This study has unearthed important factors that, I hope, can inform policy and practises; and prove to be transformative.”
View the full report here: https://oss.scot/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Understanding-disability-in-sport-Aug-23-spreads.pdf.