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A visually impaired tennis player enjoys a game
A visually impaired tennis player enjoys a game

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Sector's hard work to support disabled people during pandemic must continue apace

Specialist Advisor for Disability Alex Gibbons looks at how Sport England's Tackling Inequalities Fund and Activity Alliance's 'GOGA' programme have supported people with disabilities during the pandemic and how more needs to be done to close the growing inequalities. 

Today is the UN's International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD). 

Now, I know there are a lot of ‘days’. How often have you heard someone say “oh, there’s a day for everything, it’s ridiculous”? 

But the International Day of People with Disabilities is important, possibly more so now than ever.

As we all claw our way back from the devastating impact of covid-19, deaf and disabled people in this country are, sadly, bottom of the pile when it comes to recognition of their rights and needs.

The growing inequalities are excellently articulated in reports such as Inclusion London’s Abandoned, Forgotten and Ignored or Scope’s We Won’t Be Forgotten.

And this year’s IDPD recognises that "during the covid-19 pandemic, isolation, disconnect, disrupted routines and diminished services have greatly impacted the lives and mental well-being of people with disabilities right around the world."

Deaf and disabled people have been disproportionately affected, so it is only right that we, as a sector, address this and prevent any further increase in these steadily growing inequalities.

Thankfully, we've already made a strong start.

There’s been some great work over the last few months that recognises the need to ensure targeted funding enables deaf and disabled people to remain active and reap the massive benefits of an active life.

Most notable has been Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund (TIF) which has been a revelation. 

The flexibility of the fund means we have been able to reach people and organisations that understand the interventions that are needed right now. 

At London Sport, we have been able to dedicate a considerable proportion of the funding to disability inclusion, with several exciting projects on the horizon, one of which launches today.

Linked to their Christmas Campaign 2020, Disability Sports Coach will be sending 500 sports equipment packs across London to disabled people and their families, alongside Active at Home guides and access to new online activity sessions.

This has grown from a relatively small London Sport TIF project to a Sport England-funded programme with national reach that could benefit thousands during the pandemic and beyond.

These are the sorts of projects London Sport wants to support and fund; those that don’t only make a difference now, but can shape our approach in the future.

An excellent example is Activity Alliance’s ‘Get Out Get Active’ (GOGA) project which uses the principles of enabling disabled and non-disabled people to be active together and reaching the least active.

Many of you will have heard about the fantastic work taking place in Haringey, Lambeth and Wandsworth at our Active London conference in October with those boroughs using a variety of innovative approaches to meet local need.

I see the approaches championed by TIF and GOGA as the foundation for our work on disability inclusion over the coming months and years.

The current work isn’t a short-term fix or an add on – it’s the core of what we do.

We can be proud that we’ve shown an ability to empower deaf and disabled people to be active whatever the circumstances, even during a pandemic.

But this is only the start. 

We have only reached a small proportion of those who can benefit from our newly found creativity.

So, I make one request - on International Day of People with Disabilities - let’s all make a commitment to continuing with the same determination and energy over the coming months and years.

Let's carry on the fantastic work positively impacting the lives of deaf and disabled Londoners and let’s finish what we’ve started. 

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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

About London Sport

London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit www.londonsport.org

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