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Anna Denham blogs about Sport England’s new strategy, Tackling Inequalities and ableist language

On 26th January 2021, Sport England launched their new strategy –  Uniting the Movement – a ten-year vision to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity. As a Disabled People’s User Led Organisation (DPULO), we know that for far too long, people who have the most to gain from being physically active – including Disabled people and people with long-term health conditions – are often those least able to take part. This is not due to lack of interest or enthusiasm, but often lack of opportunity, accessible infrastructure and facilities, and attitudinal barriers that promote ableist messages.

Our CEO, Kamran Mallick has recently challenged such attitudinal barriers, by contributing to an academic article for the British Journal of Sports with Brett Smith from Durham University and others, on the detrimental impacts of ableist language so often used in the sports sector and wider media. Disability, the communication of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, and ableism: a call for inclusive messages can be downloaded here.

Disabled people, and representatives from other often under-represented communities, were able to directly influence the focus and direction of the new Sport England strategy. As a result, five “big issues” were identified by Sport England as providing the greatest potential for preventing and tackling inequalities in sport and physical activity. They form the building blocks for improving equal opportunity to sport and physical activity over the next decade.

We administer the Tackling Inequalities Fund on behalf of Sport England to support the response to inactivity during the pandemic. It has offered a great opportunity for user led projects in the Disabled People’s User Led Organisation sector as well as other local community organisations to respond to the inequalities faced by Disabled people and create solutions through lived experience and local knowledge. The fund is still open so please contact us if you are interested in applying.

Finally, we are pleased to see an acknowledgement from Sport England that simply promoting the benefits of physical activity is not enough for those facing deep rooted inequalities in our society. It reinforces our vision for our Get Yourself Active programme funded by Sport England, which looks at inactivity through the lens of people’s day to day lives, their support networks, family life and most importantly, their assets and capabilities. Through our Get Yourself Active programme, we are delighted to continue working towards Uniting the Movement and making this exciting new strategy a reality.