By Jade Hall, Senior Publics Affairs Officer, ukactive 

As a sector, we know about the benefits of physical activity. We know it can improve your health, boost your mood, and help you to manage long-term conditions. That is why we work so hard to turn the tide of physical inactivity, and make fun and engaging physical activity opportunities available to all.

However, for some people, the barriers to physical activity seem insurmountable. This can be particularly true of disabled people, who have often not had a positive experience of sport and physical activity and face a number of barriers to being active.

Indeed, evidence shows that disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive than non-disabled people, despite four in five disabled people stating that they would like to do more.

These are shocking statistics, but the good news is that the physical activity sector is actively working to finding the solutions to these barriers.

An example of this is the Everyone Can programme, which aims to change perceptions around disabled people’s participation in physical activity and support the sector to become more inclusive.

Everyone Can will drive forward changes within the physical activity sector to ensure disabled people feel equipped and welcomed to be physically active.

Over the last few months this work has begun in earnest, and ukactive has undertaken a comprehensive review of existing insight into disabled people’s participation in physical activity.

To complement this process, we have also run a number of focus groups to explore how we can improve services for disabled people.

These focus groups brought together disability champions from across the retail, transport, music and hospitality sectors, physical activity sector leaders, government representatives, and stakeholders from a range of leading health and disability charities to discuss what more we can do.

The findings from the first phase of the Everyone Can programme will be compiled into a report, which will make a series of recommendations to government about the support the sector needs to become more inclusive.

Initial findings suggest that upskilling the workforce to be more confident when engaging with disabled people will be a core theme.

Improving the way data on disabled people’s participation in activity is captured, as well as exploring how we can better embrace technology to improve customer service will also be essential.

It was also clear that there are examples of inclusive programmes within the sector, but we need to improve the way we promote them, and this will form another recommendation. Our ambition is to begin to implement these recommendations early next year.

However, Everyone Can will only be a success if it has the full support of the sector. We are delighted to have many of the major operators on board with the programme, but we want to engage all parts of the sector to further its reach and make an impact nationwide.

So please, start to think about what more you can do to make your leisure centre inclusive, think about what adaptions can be made to your fitness equipment, or how training on working with people with more complex needs can be embedded into your qualifications.

The prize is huge if we are successful. Not only will we make a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of people nationwide, but it will also open up a new customer base for the sector – after all, there are more disabled people than gym-goers in the UK.

If you would like to get involved in the Everyone Can programme, please get in touch with the team to continuing making the sector as accessible, inclusive and welcoming as possible.