Monday 19 June 2017
Women’s Sport Week (19-25 June) aims to bring everybody involved with playing, delivering, leading or working in sport together; to celebrate, raise awareness and increase the profile of women’s sport across the UK.
So why should Get Yourself Active, an organisation that is trying to get more disabled people to take up physical activity and sport care about Women’s Sports Week? Well, there are so many comparisons that can be drawn between disability and women’s sport, and so many ways in which disabled women can be ‘doubly marginalised’.
The latest Active Lives Survey states that 51% of disabled people with 3 or more impairments, 41% with 2 impairments and 34% with 1 impairment are inactive compared to 21% non-disabled people. 27% of women are inactive compared to 24% of men.
There are 13.3 million disabled people living in the UK: 7% of children are disabled, 18% of working age adults are disabled and 44% of pension age adults are disabled. This means that disabilities are often acquired as we age.
We already know that if people are encouraged to be active from a young age, then they are more likely to stay active growing up. From childhood boys will often be encouraged to play sport by those around them, yet this is not true for girls. This leads to fewer girls taking up physical activity in their early years and consequently are even less likely to take up physical activity in later life. Even more troubling is that this lack of encouragement to take up physical activity is worse for disabled girls who are even less likely to be presented with the opportunity to take up physical activity.
It is not always straight forward. Just because you may have been active as a child does not mean you will still be active all throughout adulthood. We are active during different stages of our life, and we drop out and take up physical activity at different times, often at significant times in our lives. Considering the majority of people who are classified as disabled have acquired their impairment and were not born with it, it is sometimes this acquirement of an impairment that could (temporarily) stop them from being active. If they were not active before then they are going to be even less likely to take up an activity after they’ve acquired that disability than if they were already active prior to the incident.
The media has a big role to play in encouraging both women and disabled people to take up physical activity and sport. There is a huge lack of media coverage for women as well as for disabled people in terms of celebrating their successes. Research by Women in Sport found that only 7% of all sports coverage was about women, and research by the English Federation of Disability Sport states that “disabled adults report seeing coverage of sport and physical activity for disabled people less frequently than they see coverage of non-disability sport”. If people want to see coverage of disability sport, they often have to actively search for it, whereas “non-disability sport it is difficult to avoid due to its presence on mainstream television channels and in newspapers”. The more we see disability and women’s sport on TV and in print media the more visible positive role models are.
On a wider scale, there are different barriers affecting women and men. As it stands women are already paid less than men, and disabled women are less likely to be hired than disabled men. Women therefore have fewer financial resources to support themselves, and spending time and money on physical activity and sport will not be a priority.
We have found as part of our Get Yourself Active research that it is not just a case of disabled people not wanting to take up physical activity or sport, but there is a their lack of knowledge of what provision there is. Click here for more information on how to get active in your local area.