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One year on: You don’t have to be good at sport and exercise to enjoy it

Today marks one year on since the amazing spectacle began- the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Many believe the events, especially the Paralympics, changed perceptions of disabled people on and off the field of play. Here, the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) reflects on their own work and that within the sector which will lead the legacy for disabled people long past the Games.

 As the national body for disabled people in sport and physical activity across England, the EFDS watched, like many other organisations, a summer of sport. In the build up, we noticed the increased interest in stories of new stars and young wannabes. Our principle aim is to increase participation at every level, with a Vision for disabled people to be active for life. Despite steady growth in the number of disabled people playing sport since 2005, non-disabled people are still twice as likely to take part regularly. The stories of elite success were important, but more significantly to EFDS, the need for sustainability and ongoing commitment have been at the forefront of our planning.

Disabled people have a right to be active, whether making use of their local gym or winning gold at the Paralympics. Our long term strategy launched in July backs the notion that not every disabled person wants to or could ever be a Paralympian. Therefore, it is important for organisations like EFDS to ensure those opportunities are available should a disabled person want to take part.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive for EFDS, said:

“Over the years building up to and after the Games, this country embraced Paralympians and their golden journeys. But to make a real difference in sport and physical activity, disabled people need accessible and appropriate opportunities which meet demand at local, regional and national levels. We need to acknowledge the fact that to enjoy sport you don’t actually have to be good at it. It’s perfectly OK to be an average active disabled person.”

Shortly after the Games, we undertook our own legacy survey, which revealed eight out of ten disabled people considered doing sport after London 2012. Other research has shown that interest from disabled people, without a doubt, boosted traffic to opportunity search tools, as well as sports themselves noting more enquiries. The real challenge it seems is turning interest into participation.

Our own programme, Disability Sport Events (DSE), and the partnership in Sport England’s initiative Playground to Podium, meant we did indeed inspire a generation. We were proud that both programmes had a proven impact.

A quarter of the ParalympicsGB team had taken part in an EFDS DSE event at some point in their sporting career. Five athletes in the ParalympicsGB team had started their journey with the Playground to Podium programme. Between them, they took home five medals too.

We recognised the success of the EFDS events programme in December 2012, alongside former long term sponsor Nationwide Building Society. The Nationwide Disability Sport Awards welcomed those from across sport to celebrate a memorable year, and awarded Star Clubs and individual Rising Stars with a financial bursary. These bursaries were highly sought after with more than 200 applicants. Past and present Paralympians joined the guests to recognise our role in their road to gold. To sustain our key programmes, fundraising continues to be a crucial part of EFDS’s work.

Horne continues:

“To us, the true legacy is not at the top and whether more disabled people have become Paralympians. The actual legacy is whether more disabled people have become active and want to take part again. This takes significant investment locally and nationally- money, time and energy.”


A perfect example of investment in our work following the 2012 Games was when the Paralympic sponsor Sainsbury’s partnered with EFDS, the Home Country Disability Sport Organisations and Youth Sport Trust to deliver an Inclusive PE training Paralympic legacy programme- Sainsbury’s Active Kids for All. The Sainsbury’s Active Kids for All training initiative is designed to improve the quality of PE provision for young disabled people in mainstream schools across the UK. Free inclusive PE training and resources will be provided to 23,655 teachers, trainee teachers and learning support assistants throughout the UK, over a four year period from 2012 to 2016. The training will help teachers to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to provide more opportunities in physical education and sport for young people who have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The New Year began with the news that Sport England was to invest £2 million in the EFDS over the next two years to help make sport a practical lifestyle choice for disabled people. It will maximise the impact of Sport England’s wider investment in sport for disabled people, including the Inclusive Sport Fund. We will be able to provide expertise and insight to even more sports organisations to help them motivate disabled people to take part. Although, the sector will be supported through resource and expertise, the charity will particularly focus our work on athletics, cycling, swimming, cricket, gymnastics and badminton. We are also being funded to provide bespoke support for tennis, football, table tennis, equestrian, golf and volleyball.

Some of the Sport England National Partner funding enabled us to employ three Engagement Officers across England. Their roles are to build the relationships between the sport and disability sector, increasing participation at a local level. With a contact in the regions, partners like County Sports Partnerships are given extra support to deliver more inclusive opportunities for disabled people.

An interesting discussion was sparked by the Sport and Recreation Alliance (SRA) earlier in the year, when they revealed their latest club survey findings. The study of UK clubs raised questions over the sporting legacy of the 2012 Paralympics. It reported almost nine in 10 (89%) sports clubs saw no change in the number of disabled people joining in the months after the London Games. This contrasted with statistics showing an increased interest in sports like wheelchair basketball.

Perhaps the real point in this discussion was that clubs, unknowingly sometimes, may not actually be readily accessible or even welcoming to disabled people. Possibly they do not know how to market, grow or expand their reach to disabled people. Or commonly disabled people choose multi-sport disability specific clubs to take part in, rather than those affiliated National Governing Bodies of sport clubs.

This concern from the SRA statistics backed EFDS’s development of the Inclusion Club Hub. Launched in October 2012, the new online toolkit was created so more disabled people can be included in club activities. It supports sports clubs to improve provision and opportunities, so that more opportunities are made available at a local level. The toolkit can be accessed at and is free to use. It has been successful across many sports, which actively encourage their club networks to use the toolkit as a starting point.

This year, the wider marketing support needed in the physical activity sector to include more disabled people was helped through the EFDS’s Inclusive Fitness Initiative. The programme revealed its resource called “Marketing Gyms to Disabled People”. This toolkit supports IFI Mark accredited gyms to maximise their potential to disabled people. Lots of disabled people do not realise their local gym could be the starting point to being active. There are over 400 IFI accredited gyms across the country.

Now a year on from the Games, we have been investing a lot of our time so that we can build an in-depth understanding of disabled people’s lives. At the end of 2012, we asked for disabled people’s support to gain more insight on why they do or do not take part in sport, their hobbies, motivations and engagement preferences. We also asked them about words used in sport and what they mean to them. The result is an in-depth report, due to be launched on 9 September, which is the first step in a multi-stage behaviour change project. It is designed to understand what motivates disabled people in their everyday lives and how this relates to sport. The outcomes will help EFDS to support their partners and shape offers for disabled people that are engaging, relevant and appropriate.

EFDS believes that the real legacy for disabled people will not be noticed in 2013- a year after the spectacle of elite sport. It will no doubt take many years to break down the logistical, physical and psychological barriers in sport, that disabled people face every day. To some disabled people, being active has been noted as being able to get up in the morning, so to push another layer of activity into their lives, quite simply may not be high on their agenda right now. The sustainable change takes partnerships, effective marketing and a greater understanding of disabled people’s lives. EFDS will continue to work with our partners- established and new- to ensure disabled people can be active for life.

For any EFDS media enquiries, please contact:

Sarah Marl, Marketing and Communications Manager- Mobile 07764 291671

For general enquiries, please email or call 01509 227750