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New strategy launched as poll shows pandemic impact on disabled people

National charity, Activity Alliance launches its new three-year strategy as poll findings reveal the growing impact of the coronavirus pandemic on disabled people. 

A group of disabled people having fun playing a game of Boccia

Just over 7 in 10 disabled people (72%) agree that the coronavirus pandemic has made sport and physical activity less fair for disabled people.

This is one of the headline findings of a new YouGov poll commissioned by Activity Alliance, the leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity. The poll also revealed that only 3 in 10 (30%) disabled people agree that disabled people have the same opportunity to be active as non-disabled people.

Today, we launch our new 2021-2024 Strategy - Achieving Fairness, with an immediate focus on how we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Despite a slight improvement before the pandemic, disabled people remain twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people [1].

Our strategy sets out a clear ambition to close this gap within a generation. Two clear goals will drive the strategy forward - changing attitudes towards disabled people and embedding inclusive practice in sport and activity.

One in five of us count as a disabled person in this country [2] – a large proportion of every community. The poll continues to highlight the urgent need for increased commitment to support disabled people and provide more meaningful opportunities to be active.

The true extent of the impact is still unknown. But insight already shows the pandemic has widened inequalities and created new barriers in sport and activity for disabled people. Key to building a fairer society will be a shift in people’s perceptions about what disabled people can and cannot do. The poll also reveals the public’s support in changing attitudes. Over 4 in 5 adults (85%) agree that attitudes about disabled people need to improve generally.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive at Activity Alliance, said:

"Our new strategy recognises the need to embed inclusive practices across organisations and to change attitudes towards disabled people in all aspects of sport and physical activity. Everything we do in the next three years will be shaped by our determination to see a real step change in disabled people’s activity. We need to raise awareness of the barriers, some of them longstanding, and collaboratively, drive change. The pandemic has widened the inequalities that already existed for disabled people, and the findings of our research confirm this."

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an unprecedented increase in inactivity for disabled people. 2.7% more disabled people were classed as inactive between November 2019 and November 2020 than the previous 12-month period. Disabled people were especially affected during the first lockdown period, seeing a 10.3% increase in inactivity (compared to 7.1% of non-disabled people) [3].

Our strategy sets out a response to the issues raised by the pandemic. It also identifies four key objectives for the organisation over the next three years (2021-2024):

  1. Champion disabled people’s voices and maximise Activity Alliance’s visibility
  2. Use high-quality expertise and insight to educate and inform decision making, and influence policy
  3. Address inequalities through collaboration, improving engagement and delivery with and for disabled people
  4. Maximise the use of investment and that of our partners to enable disabled people’s activity.

Sam Orde, Chair at Activity Alliance, commented on the new strategy and findings:

"It is not right or fair that disabled people continue to miss out on the huge benefits of being active. Disabled people must be at the heart of the pandemic recovery and involved in genuine decision-making. Our role just got more important, and this strategy gives us all a clear direction for the work ahead."

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive at Sport England added:

"I welcome the publication of ‘Achieving Fairness’ today and the call from Activity Alliance for greater opportunity and fairness in enabling disabled people to enjoy sport and physical activity. Even before the pandemic there was a historic challenge to address and the disruption of the past year has only widened the gap in activity levels between disabled and non-disabled people.
"Our own new strategy ‘Uniting the Movement’ has tackling such inequality at its heart and we look forward to building on our long partnership with Activity Alliance and others, to help the sector recover and rebuild more inclusively. We must all be committed to the creation of safe, enjoyable, well run opportunities to be active that are genuinely accessible and available to everyone."

Read Achieving Fairness - our 2021-2024 Strategy here


[1] Sport England, Active Lives Adult Survey Nov 19-20 (2021)

[2] Department for Work and Pensions, Family Resources Survey 2019-20 (2021)

[3] Sport England, Active Lives Survey May 19-20 Coronavirus Report (2020)