Get yourself active blog

“Getting fit again has helped me get back part of what makes me who I am, and it’s had unexpected benefits”

Monday 29th July 2019

The latest person experience story comes from Leanora Volpe

My name is Lea, and I am a member of the GB paraclimbing team. I have recently been preparing for the world championships which took place in July in France, but it has been quite a long road to get from where I was to where I am today.

I have ataxia and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. My conditions affect my balance, coordination and eyesight, and my connective tissues are fragile and unsupportive, so all of my joints and some of my organs are affected.

I haven’t always identified as disabled. Although looking back I’ve always had joint issues and wasn’t the picture of health as a teenager, my EDS wasn’t picked up until I was 21, after I experienced a big decline in my health and mobility.

As a teenager and through university I was really active and at various points I was competing in fencing, athletics and rowing. Competitive sport was a big part of my life. But when I got ill I had to stop everything and everything I heard made me believe that exercise was dangerous and difficult for people like me, so I lost the confidence to try. Health professionals advise people with EDS to do physiotherapy but the daily exercises didn’t feel meaningful or fun so I lost the motivation to do them.

The turning point for me was when my physiotherapist at the time told me to adjust my expectations about ever being able to do sports again. It was like a red rag to a bull and I signed up for a gym membership determined to prove him wrong. I had to start with just five minutes going really slowly on an exercise bike but I managed to build up the time I spent and started to incorporate strengthening exercises. As I started to get fitter I had more energy and I felt better in myself.

Then a friend told me about climbing and I decided to give it a try. I was so scared that it would be too hard or painful, and looking back it would have been a confidence boost to have the support of people around me to try new things and take risks, but after my first session I was hooked and kept going back.

Being newly disabled was isolating for a while and finding a new hobby helped me to reconnect with people in a really welcoming environment.

Nobody expects you to be super strong when you start out, so it’s a level playing field. People just cheer you on whether you’re climbing at the lowest difficulty or the highest difficulty. People barely bat an eyelid when someone comes into the climbing wall with a mobility aid or wearing a prosthetic leg – we are all equals and encourage each other regardless of ability.

After a year of climbing I found out about paraclimbing, which is climbing for people with various disabilities including visual impairments, limb differences or neurological and physical disabilities. There are lots of different categories, and mine is called ‘RP2’, which is for people with a range of moderate neurological and physical disabilities and can include anything from ataxia like me, to brain injuries, fused joints, paralysis – you name it! It’s a very mixed group.

I competed in the national championships and came second overall in my category. I decided to try out for the GB paraclimbing team and this summer competed in my first international competitions. I won the world paraclimbing master’s cup, and came third at the world championships.

It was such an amazing experience and I had a really brilliant time, and I enjoyed getting to meet paraclimbers from all over the world. I’ve learned a lot and am looking forward to next year. My ataxia is getting worse and it’s hard to deal with but there will always be a place for me in paraclimbing, which makes me feel more positive about the future.

Paraclimbing helps me feel proud to be disabled. I wouldn’t have this opportunity without my condition, and I wouldn’t have the friends I do now either.

My support network is really important to help me keep going – from my coach who adapts sessions to help avoid getting injured or too tired, to my physio who keeps my muscles and joints healthy and gives me advice about how to train safely, and my friends and family who spur me on when things are hard and believe in me every step of the way.

Getting fit again has helped me get back part of what makes me who I am, and it’s had unexpected benefits like helping me keep working, giving me more energy and helping me improve my balance and coordination.

Paraclimbers are really accepting of people’s different abilities and it’s an environment where it’s ok to find something difficult or have to take things slowly.

Before I was disabled I had trained for a marathon and was aiming to make the blue boat for Oxford. I would have loved to achieve my dreams in running and rowing but it’s empowering to have found something I can do and enjoy. It’s like I’ve left my old life behind and am on a different path now.

When your physical abilities are out of your control it can feel like a real loss. But to go from really struggling to get active again, to being the third best paraclimber in the world in my category feels amazing.

The most important thing for me was finding something I could do, and going at it with a huge amount of stubbornness and enthusiasm with a support network behind me. It’s not possible alone, and I feel really lucky to have stumbled across paraclimbing and had the opportunity and support to get active again.

In other news: If you have a story to share about why you get active and how it has helped you then we want to hear from you


Tell Us About Your Care Partnership

Monday 29th July 2019

Disability Rights UK ‘Tell Us About Your Care’ partnership with the Care Quality Commission

Good Care, Poor Care. Tell us now

Disability Rights UK is working with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as part of the ‘Tell Us About Your Care’ partnership together with a number of national charities, including Mind, The National Autistic Society, Patients Association and the Relatives & Residents Association.

View leaflet

Disability Rights UK will be gathering feedback from disabled people who contact us about their experiences of using health and social care services.

Sue Bott, Head of Policy and Research says:

“Disability Rights UK is delighted to be working with CQC as part of the Tell Us About Your Care Partnership.  We are pleased that through this initiative disabled people and people with long term health conditions will have the opportunity to tell the regulator about their experiences of the health and social care services they use, not only specialist services but services like GP surgeries that are used by everyone.”

The CQC website can be accessed here, and in the meantime you can also provide direct feedback to the CQC on your experience of using any of the services they regulate. NB please remember to select Disability Rights UK in the ‘how you heard’ section!

We're working together to ensure health and social care services in England provide you with high quality care so tell us about your care.
We’re working together to ensure health and social care services in England provide you with high quality care so tell us about your care.

In other news: Disability Rights UK is now recruiting for London Marathon 2020 and we need you!

Fundraise for Disability Rights UK

Monday 29th July 2019

Disability Rights UK is now recruiting for London Marathon 2020 and we need you!

Virgin Marathon Runner for Disability Rights UK 2017

Download marathon application form

Are you eager to make a difference? Ready to make a change for disabled people across the UK?

We are devoted to campaigning to strengthen and protect disabled people’s rights and you can help us to raise money to support the work we do. The money that you raise goes straight back into the work the charity does in supporting some of the most disadvantaged people in society. We receive no government funding for our core work so the money raised really does make a difference!

Join #teamDRUK and apply to run the London Marathon! By joining us you will receive:

  • Running Vest or T-Shirt
  • Fundraising advice, ideas and support
  • Weekly emails for encouraging advice and training tips
  • Your Story published on our website

Any Questions? Contact Anna via email:

In other news: You can support Disability Rights UK and fundraise in lots of ways for us.


Wednesday 24th July 2019

#SummerOutdoors is a new initiative from the Department for Education designed to encourage children and families to enjoy a range of activities through the school summer holidays.

The benefit being that getting outdoors and taking part in activities can help to build confidence, character and resilience in young people and expose them to new experiences.

Why #SummerOutdoors?

Building children’s character and resilience is equally as important as achieving academically. The areas of activity that #SummerOutdoors will be drawing attention to will help develop character and resilience. They include elements that will stretch and challenge and will help young people think, develop and grow, which will enhance their self-esteem and their confidence.

Why support it?

The summer holidays is the perfect time for children to have fun trying new things and the ideas and activities that will be signposted will be free (or cheap) and accessible. It’s also your chance to piggy-back on a national drive to promote events and activities that relate to your own initiatives or are happening in your area.

Summer Outdoors will signpost a variety of ideas and activities from creative pursuits, physical activities, volunteering, work experience, sports and cultural events, and will highlight things taking place across the country that are available through national organisations like the Woodland Trust, Natural England, the National Trust and Sport England.

Please support this initiative via your own social media channels and if you have your own activities to share use the hashtag #SummerOutdoors.

In other news: UKactive is hiring a new Head of Inclusion 


UK Active is hiring a Head of Inclusion

Thursday 18th July 2019

UK active is recruiting a new Head of Inclusion to work at its offices in London. The Head of Inclusion role will empower the physical activity sector to ensure disabled people feel equipped and welcomed to be physically active.

  • Job title: Head of Inclusion
  • Department: Public Affairs, Communications and Research
  • Reporting to: Director of Public Affairs, Communications and Research
  • Location: ukactive offices, London
  • Contract Type: Full Time, Permanent

Position Overview

ukactive is a not-for-profit body comprised of members and partners from across the UK physical activity sector. Our focus is a long-standing and uncompromising vision to get more people, more active, more often.

We are working with Sport England to leverage our assets and have a positive impact on the physical activity of the nation, across five key investment areas. The Head of Inclusion role will form part of this Lottery funded programme to empower the physical activity sector to ensure disabled people feel equipped and welcomed to be physically active.

Working closely with the sector, you will lead on the delivery of the next phase of the ground breaking ‘Everyone Can’ report which captures the current barriers for disabled people to being active. You will then look to implement a series of recommendations to improve engagement with disabled people.

Evidence shows that disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive than non-disabled people, with nearly half (42%) of disabled people inactive per week compared to 21% of those with no disability.

Specific Responsibilities

  • Taking the recommendations from the Everyone Can consultation into the next development phase to allow for testing on the identified themes – Physical Environment, Workforce and Training and Stimulating Demand
  • Deliver at least five activation pilot projects to test news ways of working to produce a sustainable, replicable and scalable Everyone Can model
  • Work closely with gyms and leisure operators to carry out comprehensive reviews of policies and guides that could impact the experience of a disabled person
  • Work with relevant partners to review flexibility of job roles and improve the confidence of the workforce within the sector, to allow more time for customer care
  • Build an accessible guide for the fitness and leisure sector that can be used during staff on boarding and training
  • Initiate a data capture and collection process for disabled customers accessing gyms and leisure facilities
  • Introduce a toolkit to indicate a clear process in which to engage with new and existing customers with a disability
  • Make it easier for disabled people to access relevant information about their gym and leisure centre and activities available
  • Measure success by working with the ukactive Research Institute, who are industry experts at analysing the reach, engagement and retention of new and existing customers
  • Form part of key partnership governance including attendance at Partnership Operations Meetings
  • Work closely with partnership management team including Programme Manager and Project Coordinator

Person Specification

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities


  • Significant experience of working in disability and an understanding of the challenges in this field
  • Exceptional organisational skills and time management
  • Significant experience of relationship management with third parties, at a senior level, providing advice and building effective relationships to deliver shared outcomes
  • Developed networking and influencing skills at a senior level, with a proven ability to influence the decision making of partner organisations
  • Track record of delivering effective results in a timely manor
  • Excellent verbal, written, presentation and interpersonal communication skills – with an eye for detail
  • Self-motivated, confident and calm under pressure


  • Relevant Project Management qualification
  • Previously part of a senior leadership team
  • Experience working in physical activity sector

To apply for this position, please email a CV and Cover Letter/Email to with the reference UKACT/HOI/PACR/UKACT/072019

EXTENDED Closing Date: Tuesday 13th August 2019

In other news: Read about Get Yourself Active’s webinar and evaluation event

Disabled people taking a lead in the changing landscape of health, wellbeing and personalised care: a new approach to promoting physical activity

Monday 15th July 2019

Disability Rights UK and Sport England showcased the growing evidence base brought about by one of DR UK’s flagship programmes, Get Yourself Active.

The audience listening to Leanne Wightman, Project Manager, introducing the event

As well as sharing our key learning, tools and approaches, this event was our chance to celebrate the work of Get Yourself Active throughout the first four years of the programme.

On Monday 25th March 2019, Get Yourself Active hosted a celebratory event aimed at individuals, groups and organisations who are interested in evidence-based practice relating to disabled people’s health and wellbeing.

The event was an opportunity to discuss new evidence about how to create the best outcomes for disabled people through physical activity. It was a chance for attendees to engage with like-minded people from social care, health, wellbeing and physical activity sectors. We launched our much anticipated evaluation report for the whole programme.

Our key speakers included James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care Group at NHS England and Mike Diaper OBE, Executive Director of Children and Young People, Tackling Inactivity at Sport England. Our expert panel discussed the findings in relation to a variety of themes including disabled people led approaches to improving health and wellbeing; knowledge transfer to disabled people to increase demand for physical activity; working through social care and health professionals to deliver this knowledge and what all of this means for personalised care. We also looked at how this evidence sits within different sectors with reference to social investment, service delivery and workforce development.

Guests networking

Get Yourself Active’s Webinar

Following on from the success of the event, we had lots of people contacting us who were unable to attend in person and wanted to learn more. This is why we put together a webinar designed to be an overview of the Get Yourself Active programme and its evaluation report covering the last four years.

The webinar was broken down into three sections which reflect the evaluation report and the three strands of Get Yourself Active’s work: the local coordination model, co-production with the sports sector and the social worker guidelines.

The webinar is introduced and chaired by Leanne Wightman, Project Manager of Get Yourself Active at Disability Rights UK. This is followed by short presentations from Brett Smith, Head of Research in the school of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Birmingham and holds a Chair in Physical Activity and Health, and Tim Bidey, Senior Consultant at Traverse. The webinar was then followed by a short question and answer session providing the opportunity for webinar attendees to find out more about the findings from the past four years.

Click here to watch to the webinar

The Get Yourself Active panel

What’s next for Get Yourself Active?

We’ve got lots of plans for the upcoming years which build upon our evaluation report learning.

We will be building on the success of the social worker guidelines and working with new partners to develop these for different audiences. We will continue to work with Disabled People’s User Led Organisations who are interested in exploring the Local Coordinator model and we will work with the sport sector to develop its understanding and delivery of co-production.

For more details on what these plans entail sign up to the Get Yourself Active monthly newsletter and keep checking the Get Yourself Active website for updates.

In other news: Who says? The new campaign calling time on negative perceptions

Who says? The new campaign calling time on negative perceptions

Monday 15 July 2019

A new exciting campaign from Activity Alliance is calling time on negative perceptions about disability, inclusion and sport and asks – who says?

  • Who says it’s not a real sport if you have to adapt it?
  • Who says disabled people aren’t competitive?

For far too long disabled people have faced misconceptions and presumptions on what is and isn’t possible, including in sport. Leading national charity, Activity Alliance, wants to move the conversations on, open people’s minds and shift out-dated views on disability. Who says? gives positive evidence that replaces these negative ideas.

Launched on 15 July, who says? was created in response to the charity’s recent research, which explored non-disabled people’s attitudes on inclusive activity. The findings show a lack of understanding could be causing long-lasting barriers for disabled people, leading to inactivity. For the least active audience in our country, people’s attitudes can make or break activity experiences.

Who says we can’t break down barriers?

In reality, disabled people have countless personal experiences that lead to marginalisation, low confidence and inactivity.

Who says? empowers people, on and off the field of play, to challenge their own and others’ perceptions. But, here are some facts that need serious consideration:

  • Disabled people are twice as likely to be physically inactive as non-disabled people. Although we saw an increase recently, the number of active disabled people remains resistant to growth. [i]
  • The main barriers to being active are psychological, logistical and physical, with psychological the most influential. This is, disabled people’s personal impression of sport and non-disabled people’s attitudes about disabled people playing sport.[ii]
  • Two thirds (64 per cent) of disabled people would prefer to take part in sport with both disabled and non-disabled people, currently only half (51 per cent) are doing so. [iii]
  • Research shows almost half of disabled people fear losing their benefits if they are seen to be physically active.[iv]
  • Only 14 per cent of non-disabled people are aware of having previously taken part in sport with disabled people. But three quarters (73%) of non-disabled people were open to the idea. [v]

To kick it off, the campaign films challenge six findings from the research. The films provide upbeat insight with a mixture of disabled and non-disabled people. They share their own experiences and feelings on these six statements:

  1. It’s not a real sport if you have to adapt it
  2. Disabled people aren’t competitive
  3. Watch what you say around disabled people
  4. Disabled people don’t want to join in
  5. Disabled people might get hurt
  6. Everyone can’t take part together

Barry Horne, Chief Executive for Activity Alliance, said:

“Negative experiences should not be allowed to continually shape disabled people’s lives. This campaign aims to replace misconceptions with reality. If we truly want everybody to benefit from being active, then we need to call time on negative perceptions. The positive messages in our campaign provide a fresh and authentic view of the sports world. We are asking you to join us in creating a movement built solidly on equality, freedom and choice.”

Adam Blaze, Sport England’s Strategic Lead for Disability, said:

“We are delighted to see the launch of the Who Says campaign which will challenge negative-perceptions disabled people face when getting active while encouraging people of all abilities to get active together. Views that disabled people don’t want to join in, might get hurt or that everyone can’t take part together are just some of the perceptions that prevent disabled people from being active. The campaign tackles these myths head on showing that we can all do more to break down the barriers and challenge negative perceptions facing disabled people wanting to get involved in sport and physical activity.”

Who says you can’t be part of the movement?

The first campaign phase will run for six weeks over summer. Whilst the who says? movement begins, we are calling for you to get involved in the campaign by posting your own experiences using #WhoSays. Share our films and make your own to add your voice to the campaign.

Tell us your who says? You could be a disabled person who has challenged someone’s attitude whilst being active. Your organisation wants to share positive stories. Or your company plans to use the campaign to release new funding focused on inclusion.

Beyond the hashtag

Taking the conversation beyond the #WhoSays hashtag is important to us. It’s crucial we talk honestly and openly about matters that affect disabled people’s activity, like policy, funding and promotion. We hope the campaign leads to bigger conversations, greater collaboration and wider systemic responses.

If your organisation would like to get involved and you have a great idea for the campaign, please contact or call 0161 228 2868.

We can’t challenge perceptions and change the reality of disability, inclusion and sport. Who says?!

Watch the perception collection here [Live on 15 July].

Find out more

[1] Sport England Active Lives Survey

[1] Activity Alliance Lifestyle Report

[1] Activity Alliance Lifestyle Report

[1] Activity Alliance The Activity Trap

[1] Activity Alliance Taking Part with Disabled People

In other news: Listen to a recording of Get Yourself Active’s webinar to learn about the programme and its evaluation