People with disabilities
Under the Equality Act 2010, someone has a disability if they have a long-term health condition, impairment or illness that has a substantial effect on their ability to perform normal daily activities. This includes physical, sensory, intellectual, social, behavioural, and mental health conditions or impairments.
Making your facilities fully accessible for everyone is vital. Engaging with local disability organisations to co-design accessible facilities and activities helps support people with disabilities in your community to enjoy the benefits of your facility.
One in five people (22%) in the UK have a disability – that’s 14.6 million people. There are two distinct models of how society thinks about disability:
The Medical Model
This model states that people are disabled by their impairments or differences, for example a wheelchair user who is unable to enter a shop with steps. The medical model suggests the problem lies in the wheelchair – not the steps.
The social model
This model states that disability is caused by the way our world is organised. It focuses on the barriers that exist in society (physical and attitudinal) and tries to remove them to increase inclusion. For example, if steps make a shop inaccessible for wheelchair users, a ramp should be added.
The Social Model of disability is the most helpful model for considering the inequalities faced by people with disabilities. It requires people to think about the disabling impact of society on their lives, rather than the impact of a health condition or impairment alone. The social model of disability examines a wide array of society-driven inequalities. This model will help you consider the inequalities faced by people with disabilities in accessing your provision, and the practical steps you can take to tackle them.
It’s critical to consider the societal, economic, and political systems which disable people with impairments. This means that people with impairments, disabilities, mental health conditions and long-term conditions are excluded, marginalised, and discriminated against, which disables them from being able to access and feel included in society in many ways.
People with disabilities want the same opportunities as everyone else. They want to take part in sport and physical activity and be a part of their local community. If you can make that happen with your project, you can have a significant impact on people’s lives.
County FAs often employ designated Disability Officers who can provide advice and help connect you to local disability-led organisations and community groups.
People with disabilities have their own needs, motivations, and interests. Listening to individual stories allows you to understand how you can improve your facility and remove barriers to inclusivity. Working collaboratively with the disabled community as experts with lived experience will ensure your facilities and activities are inclusive. Together you can find ways to develop and provide suitable accessible activities and facilities.
Reach out and form partnerships with local Disabled People User Lead Organisations (DPULO’s) that have existing links and relationships with communities. These organisations have built trust and understanding with disabled communities and will help you understand their experiences and create impactful change. They could become partners in your project, evidencing your commitment to inclusive activities, from day care centres to clubs and groups, community centres or special educational needs (SEN) schools.
When speaking to individuals and groups consider the following:
ACTIVITY – What and how: In all cases, speak to a diverse range of people with disabilities with varied experience and explore their suggestions to design a program of activities that reflects these conversations and ensures that everyone can take part.
ACCESS – Equipment and venue access: Explore access issues for your potential target audiences. Invite representatives to visit your site or look at plans and ask them to suggest changes to make it more accessible and welcoming. Adaptive equipment may be needed although in some cases your existing equipment could be adequate. Check whether additional resources will make a difference.
LOCATION – Where: Can participants reach your venue using accessible transport methods? People with disabilities are often willing to travel further for the right activities but only if reliable, accessible transport methods are available.
ACCESSIBILITY – When: You may need to be flexible with your programme of activities to ensure it works for the audience you are trying to reach. Getting to and from a venue can be a logistical challenge, alongside their other existing commitments. Ensure activities are held at a time that is suitable for everyone.
Considerations and potential challenges
Here are some considerations for engaging with disabled audiences to ensure your activities are as inclusive and accessible as possible:
- Get to know your local disability organisations or charities. They can connect you to a range of people with disabilities and communities with rich and varied lived experience and needs. When promoting your opportunities ask local partners for introductions to groups who work with disabled audiences.
- Find out what groups want to do at your facility and consider positive opportunities you could develop. Then think about their support needs and how to ensure your facility has no barriers that prohibit inclusion.
- Create a culture and environment which promotes inclusion for all, including people with disabilities from the very first interaction with your space or activity. Ensure that everyone is valued by people from your organisation and your key partners will help potential participants envisage being part of your facility and activities.
- Think about how you can improve the knowledge and understanding across your organisations. Training is one option and can be part of your drive to improve understanding and inclusion but speak directly to those you want to engage with and ask them how you can improve your understanding.