Why is the standard of Disability Sports activities still lagging behind?
Disabled people have some of the lowest participation rates in the UK. According to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (2007) only 8.8-9.5% of disabled adults are involved in regular moderate activity compared to the popular average of 21%. The barriers in challenging the standard of disability sports provision is really not that much different to other groups. It is perhaps the perception and approach people have to improving the quality of activities for people with disabilities that requires more drive.
Like girls and women in sport the low standards of activities is often linked to access to facilities/equipment and funding (sponsorships). Furthermore, activities failing to accommodate physical capabilities, supervision and inadequate expertise and knowledge in delivering Adapted Sports are also barriers which influence standards. Visit the Run Fun Starz Group page to find out more about Adapted Sports. This post will outline these issues with regards to disability sports at community level.
One of the major reasons the standard of Disability Sports is lagging is due to little or no understanding of which activities are available and suitable by those responsible for providing the activities. This is possibly because they are not even aware that sports and activities geared towards people with disabilities at a local level even exist. So an attempt to integrate the person with a disability into a mainstream activity is made. This is good when the integration is successful. However, the success of this integration is dependent on the type of disability.
For instance it is easier for someone with hearing impairment to me included in a Table Tennis compared to involving someone in the same session who has an upper limb disability. This increases the chances of not taking part at all as their needs are not being met. In the latter example Polybat may be a more suitable choice of activity. Thus to develop the standard those directly involved in providing the activities should have the necessary Coach Education and Training relating to Disability Sports (Adapted Sports) such as Boccia, New Age Kurling and Table Cricket this will build knowledge and experience.
People supervising activities may not be practically involved in raising standards. It is important to allow people to play the sport but if the activity is not explained or demonstrated then the risk is the person is not learning or gaining the skills that they should do. Consequently, they get into a bad habit like everyone else. It could be due to the perception that because someone is disabled it is okay for them to learn or practice incorrectly.
With an outlook like this of course the quality of the activity will not be up to standard and hence the level of learning and acquiring skills is lower than it could be. It is according to the context in which the activity is being taught, the type of disability and capabilities of the person which must influence the decision to make the correction required. To enhance the experience for disabled people supervisors should use their observations and experiences to get involved more in the activities.
In relation to access to facilities and equipment for activities this plays a vital part to the standards. Some facilities still have poor accommodation for those with disabilities often linking to spacing. If you could not manoeuvre around a Sports Hall properly it is certain to take away from your experience in the activity as you are being restricted.
Thus poor facilities impact the setting of activities. For example the Wheel Chair Slalom Event in Athletics requires adequate space for the wheelchair to move freely. In addition, if the suitable racket for playing Polybat is not available to someone with a upper limb disability and they are forced to use a Table Tennis racket they are not able to grip properly it means standards of the activity provided is lower than it should be.
The above issue like most challenges in accessing sports is funding and perhaps sponsorship. The good news is that governing bodies like Sport England continue increase funding. In March 2010 they provided a further £10m to disability sports. Despite some standards still lagging behind in communities things have come a long way and many organisations are providing schemes and activities to improve access.
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