How our inclusive sports day created opportunities for disabled people to be active

A smiling man with a woman playing table tennis

There are so many benefits for disabled people to be active; increased confidence, making social connections, reducing loneliness, and increased motor skills, to name a few. These are all benefits we’ve witnessed first-hand through our Sense Sports sessions.

But there are also barriers to participation that exist. From perception about what disabled people are capable of, through to practical barriers such as accessibility of venues, transportation, and familiarity of the environment.

So as a new Regional Sports Co-ordinator, having been in post with the Sense Sports team less than three months, I was excited and admittedly a little nervous to be organising my first inclusive sports event, to help raise awareness about inclusive and accessible sport and activities.

Sense’s inclusive sports day highlighted the benefits of physical activity for people with complex disabilities

A smiling man playing table cricket

Sense had been invited to take part in European Week of Sport. The awareness week was led by UK active and took place 23–30 September. Sense were the lead partner on one of the days (Thursday 27 September), and it was a great opportunity to raise the profile of Sense inclusive sports sessions, the people we support, and all things connected with Sense.

My Sport Development experience told me an open day with lots of different sports would be great way to celebrate the day, and hey presto, days later the plans were in place and the hard work began!

In a matter of weeks, we had a venue and plenty of sports on offer, with some great interest from local people wanting to come and get involved.

Small adaptations and the right approach can easily make sport accessible for disabled people

A smiling woman holding a basket ball

With this inclusive Sports Day , we really wanted to highlight that with small adaptations – such as equipment and space – and the right approach to being inclusive, everyone can enjoy the benefits of physical activity and sport.

On the day itself, I had my fingers crossed that everything was going to run smoothly, and I’m pleased to say it did!

The whole objective of the event was to get people active and to raise awareness of inclusive sport and physical activity opportunities. So I reached out and connected with existing and new contacts in the Rotherham area, where the sports day was taking place, and invited a number of schools, adult social care providers, and sense service users in the South Yorkshire area.

It was really rewarding having a vibrant mix of organisations and different people from the local community. The event itself was a real success, with the local press and the BBC joining us to raise awareness of the benefits of inclusive and accessible activities and sport.

I really wanted to make this event open to all people locally, including their friends, family and support staff, with the ultimate aim being a fun and inclusive day for all.

From ping-pong to wheelchair basketball, it was incredible to offer so many accessible activities during European Week of Sport

A smiling man standing in a sports hall with a sign that says "Sense Sport"

On the day the feedback I received was enthusiastic and positive. You only needed to speak to people attending to understand the benefits of being physically active. One participant said to me, “I feel great playing sport” and “I love meeting new people.”

It was great that local sports providers were able to support the event too, with a wide range of sports and activities on offer during the day. These included wheelchair basketball, run by the Sheffield Steelers, Inclusive Ping Pong, mini tennis, table cricket, Boccia, Bollywood dancing, swimming, and football delivered by Rotherham Community Football coaches.
By the end of the day, 85 people had taken part in the day’s activities, and the buzz created in all the sessions was amazing.

The Sense support workers were really positive about the event, and loved the social aspect of day which enabled them to build new friendships, develop new contacts, and above all, create an accessible and inclusive experience for all who took part.

Find out more about Sense Sport

Author: Paul Downes

Paul is a regional sports coordinator in the Sense Sports team, overseeing accessible and inclusive activities and sports for people with complex disabilities.

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