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GYA’s Response to the Disability Action Plan

The Government has released its Disability Action Plan (DAP), claiming to take action across widespread policy areas to ‘improve Disabled people’s lives.’ They have included some commitments involving physical activity, but none tackle the root causes that are excluding Disabled people from being active ourselves.

The Government released its Disability Action Plan (DAP), claiming to take action across widespread policy areas to ‘improve Disabled people’s lives.’ 

The action plan follows a National Disability Strategy which was ruled unlawful by the High Court in January 2022, a now demoted Disability Minister post which was left empty for a week in December, and the UK being the first country to be investigated by the UN due to “grave and systemic violations” of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD). 

The Disability Action Plan is largely comprised of short-term policies, such as adherence to accessibility and equality laws, whilst leaving the systemic issues largely untouched. Systemic issues, it should be emphasised, are a direct result of Government policies or inaction.  

There is a huge gulf between the proportion of Disabled people and the proportion of non-disabled people who get active. Sport England research has found that 16.2% of Disabled people strongly agree that ‘I feel I have the opportunity to be physically active’, compared to 38.3% of non-disabled people. Being active in a way that suits us and is fun is not a luxury; it should be a core part of our lives regardless of background. Our inactivity speaks to our wider exclusion from society. 

Some of the key physical activity-related policies from the report include the prospect of hosting a Special Olympics. Whilst we acknowledge the desire for greater visibility for Disabled people in sports, we are concerned without funding and support for a Special Olympics, being a host will not lead to removing the barriers all Disabled people face when trying to get active. In this area, the government could have used the DAP to implement and provide a funding uplift for better quality experiences and inclusive opportunities.  

We appreciate the renewed focus of the DAP on the prospects of Disabled children and young people. However, further consultation on accessible playgrounds looks likely to simply be a proposition for adhering to the accessibility standards that are a legal requirement of the Equalities Act 2010. This does not constitute a meaningful step forward to dismantling ableism within our society. It should also be noted that many of the accessible playgrounds that currently exist are often not funded because austerity strips back local council budgets, with many local groups resorting to crowdfunding for even the most basic facilities. 

It is discouraging to see that the DAP contains no such policies, focusing instead on further research, ongoing consultations and exploratory conversations. platitudes and gestures distracting us from institutional discrimination. To date, we have supported almost 100 organisations and groups of Disabled people across the country to provide high-quality physical activity for us. One thing we all experience is the barriers that prevent us from being active, and one thing we all agree on is that we need actions and funding, not more research.  

According to the Activity Alliance, two-thirds (65%) of Disabled people rely on benefits to be active. Yet, the DAP offered no changes to the social security system to enable us to be more active. Many of the welfare reforms have negatively impacted Disabled people, and in this context, we ask how useful is an action plan void of social security reform when nearly half of Disabled children and their families in the UK are living in poverty?  

We also recognise that the plan does not mention tackling intersectional barriers to participation, particularly those faced by Disabled people of colour or from other marginalised backgrounds. The plan proposes very little to impact those with complex impairments, such as Deaf-Blind people, who experience serious barriers limiting participation. 

Get Yourself Active Campaigner, Mikey Erhardt said

It is important to understand that being active is not only taking part in competitive sports or pushing yourself to the max weightlifting in the gym. Being active can and should be part an accessible part of every Disabled person’s daily routine. 

Being active is a class issue. We know that if you are poorer, you will be less active. We know poverty corresponds with other intersecting factors, including race, gender or impairment. It is understandable that when our rights are being eroded and our living standards are dropping that many of us aren’t able to be as active as we’d like – or aren’t even able to consider what activity would make us feel good! 

Being active in a way that suits us and is fun is not a luxury, it should be a core part of our lives regardless of background. Our inactivity speaks to our wider exclusion from society. Although some of the actions proposed in the Disability Action Plan are commendable and may positively impact the lives of Disabled people, they are insufficient to the mounting barriers that prevent us from being active in the ways we want.” 

You can find our written evidence, which was co-written with Disabled People’s Organisations, groups of Disabled People, and individual Disabled People with lived experience and interest in physical activity, on the Get Yourself Active website.