In September 2012, Trailblazers launched an event at City Hall to mark the start of the Paralympics. Although Trailblazers had had a flavour of disability sport, they told us about some challenges they had in accessing local facilities and found there was a lack of information available.

Although organisers hailed the Paralympics as having had a seismic effect on the attitudes towards disability, recent reports have claimed that nine out of ten sports clubs have seen no change in the number of disabled people joining or engaging in sport, although other sources say individuals sports, such as wheelchair basketball, have seen increases in participation.

The legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is, in some ways, as important as the Games themselves. Increased participation requires investment in facilities, equipment, information and staff training. Local opportunities to participate, coach or enjoy sport as a spectator should be available to everyone.

Engaging in sport does far more than bringing physical benefits; it is clear that the social, and psychological benefits should not be underestimated. Accessibility is essential to enable individuals to explore, engage and develop an enthusiasm for sport at any level.

This discussion sparked further investigation and more than 100 Trailblazers have been involved in the subsequent surveys, blogs and regional group interviews that constitute the Game On report.

Our report revealed:

  • More than 50 percent of respondents do not engage in any sport.
  • Eight out of ten respondents believe there needs to be more active engagement from local leisure facilities.
  • Seventy-five percent of respondents said that better access would encourage them to participate.
  • Two out of three respondents do not use a gym owing to a lack of access or appropriate equipment.
  • Ninety-four percent of Trailblazers surveyed believe that the Paralympics will encourage disabled people to take up sport.
  • Sixty-five percent of respondents believe the London 2012 Games will increase the availability of opportunities for disabled people to engage in sport.

Although there obviously needs to be more equipment available and more investment in facilities, the main problem I feel, is attitude. If staff were made more aware of the importance of offering sport to disabled people then it would encourage more people to go. Sometimes I think people are reluctant because they’re unsure about how people will react and worry about others people’s attitudes.

Carrie-Ann Lightley, Cumbria

Trailblazers are call for:

  • gyms to provide more information about access, equipment and classes; and invest in equipment so that disabled people can enjoy inclusive training sessions
  • leisure centres to invest in equipment, including more hoists and ramps; and have time set aside exclusively for disabled people and their carers to swim
  • the government and sports clubs to promote local clubs by engaging with health professionals, local authorities, sports venues and charities.

You can read the most recent report here. Trailblazers continues to campaign on improving access to grassroots sport. If you are affected by these issues and would like to share your experiences or be a media ambassador, contact us here.

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