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Disabled people can't be leaders

Let's call time on negative perceptions about disability, inclusion, and sport. 

Join the Who says? movement. Watch this film and access positive stories, resources, and guidance to challenge perceptions.

Watch disabled people can't be leaders film

(Disabled people can't be leaders transcript)

Who Says? Campaign LogoWho says? – our exciting campaign is back and this time it’s all about children and young people. Join us in calling time on negative perceptions about disability, inclusion, and sport.

This phase of the campaign focuses on changing attitudes towards disabled children and young people in sport and activity. The campaign films explore four negative perceptions that can impact a disabled child’s opportunities to be active. Attitudes can make or break activity experiences. In society, disabled people of all ages experience countless harmful opinions that lead to marginalisation, low confidence, and inactivity. That's why changing attitudes is crucial in ensuring a future active generation.

This page responds to Activity Alliance and others' research and insight on the perception – Disabled people can't be leaders

What do we know? 

Insight from our 2020 research report – My Active Future: including every child 

    • Disabled children spoke about teachers and coaches not understanding disability or how to adapt activities.
    • Disabled children spoke about a lack of visible role models in sport.

    Findings from Youth Sport Trust Class of 2035: How sport can empower a generation report

    • Children increasingly want to see sporting activity led by their peers. One in three (36%) young people said they would do more sport if it was led by someone their own age – up from 23% six year ago. This is especially important for young disabled people – 46% of whom agreed.

Calling time on this perception

There is no set rule to who can and who can’t become a leader. Leadership comes in different forms, and we are all inspired by different people for different reasons. In sport, activity, and education, we know there are less decision-makers and people in leading roles who are disabled or living with health conditions.

This needs to change. We need more disabled leaders to ensure there is diversity in thought. Strategies to improve future activity are more successful when the audience we are trying to reach are involved and co-designing the ideas.

It is not fair that so often young disabled people are overlooked or miss out on leadership or employment schemes. Future generations need more opportunities to lead the way. Teachers, coaches, volunteers on boards are all leaders. You don’t have to be in a high-paid role with an executive title to be considered a leader.

Organisations must consider how inclusive their leadership programmes are and ensure more disabled children and young people can access them. This will allow all young people to flourish into future leaders in sport and activity, should they wish to.

Who says? empowers people, on and off the field of play, to challenge their own and others’ perceptions.

Dance teacher leading an inclusive dance classSee My Voice – British Blind Sport

See My Voice is a sports leadership volunteer programme for blind and partially sighted young people aged 14-19. The project helps young leaders gain confidence and develop life skills, which will inevitably boost their self-esteem and improve their employment prospects. It also allows them to meet new people and become involved in their communities.

Find out more about See My Voice

Youth Sport Trust Youth Board

The Youth Board aims to give a voice to young people from every corner of society. It has three main areas of responsibility:

  1. Advisory – advise on the direction of the work and how to best engage with young people
  2. Development – inform, influence, and engage with the Youth Sport Trust so that they do the best they can for all young people
  3. Communications – showcase the work of the Youth Sport Trust through key communication channels.

More information on Youth Sport Trust Youth Board 

Athlete Leadership Programme – Special Olympics GB 

The Athlete Leadership Programme provides a way for athletes to showcase their talents and interests, undergo training and learn new skills. The Programme gives Special Olympics athletes the opportunity to take on new roles and responsibilities, on and off the sports field.

Special Olympics GB Athlete Leadership Programme

Coach Core Youth Board

The Coach Core Youth Board comprises 10 amazing young people, including current and graduated Coach Core apprentices as well as people from outside the organisation. The Youth Board works with them and the Board of Trustees to support, develop, and promote the work of Coach Core.

Find out more about Coach Core Youth Board

Access Sport

Access Sport trains and supports volunteer sports coaches and club leaders in a range of vital skills such as establishing new sessions to attract more deprived and disabled young people. With a focus on building personal development pathways for participants towards education or employment and financial sustainability for clubs, so they can grow and serve more local young people for years to come. 

Find out more on Access Sport website


StreetGames harnesses the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of disadvantaged young people right across the UK. Their work helps to make young people and their communities healthier, safer, and more successful.

Visit StreetGames website

Get Out Get Active volunteer management toolkit

Created in partnership with Volunteering Matters, the information in the Get Out Get Active (GOGA) volunteer management toolkit provides organisations with a step-by-step guide to building an inclusive volunteer programme. 

GOGA volunteer management toolkit

National Disability Sports Organisations

The National Disability Sports Organisations (NDSOs) are a good starting point for advice, support, and opportunities. They can provide useful information on adapting sports for people of all ages with specific impairments. Many of the NDSOs hold fun sports events for children and young people throughout the year.

The eight NDSOs are: British Blind Sport, Cerebral Palsy Sport, Dwarf Sports Association UK, LimbPower, Mencap, Special Olympics Great Britain, UK Deaf Sport and WheelPower.

Find out more about National Disability Sports Organisations

Call time on negative perceptions with us

Taking the conversation beyond the #WhoSays hashtag is important to us. It’s crucial we talk honestly and openly about matters that affect disabled people’s activity, like policy, funding, and the media. We hope this campaign leads to bigger conversations, greater collaboration, and wider systemic responses.

If you, or your organisation would like to get involved, has a story to share, or you have a great idea for the campaign, please contact or call 0161 200 5443.

Get involved and join the conversation on social media – share the films and add your voice to the campaign by posting your own experiences using #WhoSays.

Who says we can’t change this perception and more? Thank you for your support.  

Return to campaign homepage