Activity Alliance has released new research shining a light on the attitudes of non-disabled people towards inclusive activities with disabled people. Even though the results showed very welcome signs of improvement, there are still ingrained perceptions which create barriers in altering the reality of inclusion, disability, and sport.

Taking part with those who are disabled: The perceptions of non-disabled people are the result of an Internet survey conducted with over 2,000 adults who aren’t disabled. It was focused specifically on the concept known as inclusive activity, where both the disabled and non-disabled partake together. It examined the experiences and perceptions of respondents. The findings painted a quite varied picture that indicated the perceptions of non-disabled people might be preventing them from partaking in such a mixed setting.

The opportunity to alter perceptions through sport

The results showed a positive chance to alter perceptions specifically through sporting activity, recognises Gabriel’s Angels. Almost three-quarters of the non-disabled respondents reported to being open to the notion of involving themselves with some kind of active recreation or sport that involved disabled people. Non-disabled people definitely recognised what a positive impact that involving themselves with such inclusive activities might have on themselves. Three benefits were reported specifically, in being how they might learn more about those who are disabled, followed by the chance to meet new people, and feeling more comfortable when around those who are disabled.

About a quarter of the respondents instinctively associated those who are disabled with being fully equal to those who are not disabled, possibly driven by the awareness of discrimination which disabled people have to deal with. Respondents reported that those with mental health issues, behavioural afflictions, physical impairment, and learning disabilities to be the specific groups that experience the most prejudice in today’s UK.

On the other hand, they also showed unfounded concern for the potentially negative impact that involving themselves might have on the wellness of disabled individuals. The top three concerns of non-disabled people were how they might wind up patronising disabled people, how disabled individuals might get hurt, and that people without disabilities might say something that is inappropriate.

The language inconsistencies used by the providers promoting mixed activities were readily evident. Over two-thirds of those without disabilities said that they had no pre-existing knowledge of just what the terminology of ‘inclusive sport’ even meant. Almost three quarters did demonstrate awareness as to how inclusive sport could be ‘for everyone’.

Unfamiliar experiences involving those with disabilities

Unfamiliarity, inexperience, and a general lack of awareness with those with disabilities were apparent throughout the results. Disabled individuals are a broad segment of modern society, actually one in every five people! However, only one in seven of those with disabilities were aware that they’d already taken part in physical activities or sport with disabled individuals. Also, just under half said they even knew someone who was disabled.

This report just adds to the growing research portfolio of Activity Alliance which explores those who are disabled and their barriers, as well as perceptions to them being active with others.

The gap between the ambitions and the reality

The Lifestyle Report findings illustrated a serious mismatch between the availability of opportunities for disabled individuals to be active and their preference for being active. Nearly two-thirds of disabled respondents said that they like to be involved in activities and sports that mix together the disabled with those who are not. However, only half were actually getting to do it.

Disabled people also had the chance to echo this preference for mixed sports and activities through the Motivate Me report. That study illustrated how many disabled individuals were far more likely to respond to any opportunities for activity when it tapped into things that mattered the most to them. Those things include building up friendships, keeping up their health, progressing in life, and getting more independent.

While it is certainly true that not all disabled individuals actually want to involve themselves in mixed activities and sport, but enough do that opportunities and awareness need to be promoted at every possible turn.