Sport and physical activity are central to the fabric of life in Ireland. There is a growing awareness and understanding that peoples’ lives can be enhanced through participation, especially by improving health and wellbeing, increasing social interaction and empowering people to be the best they can be.
COVID-19 has presented a huge challenge for everyone in society to seek alternative ways of participating in sport, physical activity, exercise and outdoor activities. For many people with disabilities this has been a very difficult time as they will not have had access to their local clubs, outdoor amenities, coaches, training facilities and equipment.
As restrictions continue to be lifted across the country, with facilities opening their doors, club members returning to training, new programmes/offers being promoted, we want to work together to ensure that people with disabilities are included in all planning, protocols, promotion and participation opportunities.
We acknowledge that sport and physical activity providers have faced and continue to experience many challenges throughout this pandemic, our fear however is that the focus of inclusion, that so many organisations have committed to over the years may be impacted upon as changes to organisations, personnel and structures are implemented as a result of the impact of COVID-19.
Just as providers are presented with challenges and are having to adapt to the new ways of working, there is equally the potential that additional barriers or challenges will be experienced by people with disabilities to the extent that it will prevent some individuals return to sport and physical activity. Barriers such as longer queues, inaccessible environments, masks/screens which inhibit clear communication or quite simply the fear of returning to sport or activities.
Cara in conjunction with the National Disability Sport Organisations recognise the importance of including people with disabilities in sport and physical activity and are asking all sport and physical activity providers to take an approach that is welcoming for everyone.
To support your planning and programmes, we have worked together to provide you with a guidance document Return to Sport and Physical Activity for People with Disabilities, An Inclusive Response and we are asking all providers to consider this guidance as part of your ongoing commitment to putting disability sport and inclusive physical activity at the heart of our nation.
Cara was delighted to work collaboratively with Sport Ireland in the development of their guidance notes on the return to sport for people with disabilities. We welcome the release of these guidelines today which further reiterates and supports the important message of an inclusive approach to a safe and supportive return to sport and physical activity for everyone.
The national network of Local Sport Partnerships Sports Inclusion Disability Officers, together with our organisations are available to support providers and to support people with disabilities to safely return to sport and physical activity participation.
For more detailed information on considerations for the return to sport and physical activity for people with a disability please click here for more information.
Remember sport and physical activity positively change lives and your inclusive approach will make a difference. An inclusive approach is the right approach and we are here to help!
Niamh Daffy, CEO Cara.
On behalf of the Disability Sport Sector