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Latest national activity survey reveals disabled people feel forgotten in recovery

Latest national activity survey reveals disabled people feel forgotten in recovery back to News

The national charity and leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity, Activity Alliance, releases the latest Annual Disability and Activity Survey. It shows slow progress in engaging more disabled people after the COVID-19 pandemic. Greater effort is needed now to tackle inequalities that affect disabled people, so no one feels forgotten.

Latest national activity survey reveals disabled people feel forgotten in recovery

 National charity Activity Alliance is calling for greater priority for disabled people as the country recovers from the pandemic. Today, the leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity releases their latest Annual Disability and Activity Survey. It highlights the worrying effects on the nation’s disabled population and the need for urgent attention to tackle growing inequalities.

While last year’s survey highlighted the impact of the pandemic on disabled people, this year’s exposes the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as we recover. More than 1,800 disabled and non-disabled respondents aged 16+ took part in the largest survey of its kind, from October to December 2021.

The responses taken during a period of eased restrictions indicate disabled people’s fears and disappointment at being forgotten. Of those respondents, 20 disabled survey participants also took part in a series of online focus groups. They shared their reactions to the findings and led discussions on this year’s recommendations.

Key findings include:

Sam Orde, Chair at Activity Alliance, commented on the latest report:

“This year’s Survey highlights the true impact of the pandemic on disabled people and the changes required so nobody feels forgotten. We appreciate many providers and decision makers faced enormous challenges during the pandemic. But we are almost a year from restrictions being lifted, and still hearing too many negative experiences from disabled people.

“We must double our efforts and prioritise disabled people in the recovery. Whether this is through opportunities, strategy, or investment, we need leaders to play their part and drive change through their work.

“This Survey provides the evidence that we need a mixture of solutions to get us moving in the right direction. One in five of us identify as a disabled person in this country so one size will not fit all. Our charity can help organisations to improve and embed the necessary inclusive practices.  

“Many of the findings show negative changes and stark differences between disabled and non-disabled people. We have listened to disabled people and urge decision makers to do the same. Some barriers that have existed for a long time have been exasperated during this crisis. We cannot allow our nation to ignore and exclude a large proportion of society.”

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England Chief Executive and Government Disability Access Advisor for Sport & Physical Activity, said:

“This report is an important and salutary reminder of the work still to do when it comes to making sport and physical activity genuinely welcoming and inclusive for all disabled people. I would urge all organisations in the sector to reflect on the report and its recommendations as part of a collective effort to break down the barriers to inclusion for disabled people.”

The recommendations outline the changes leaders, commissioners and organisations must make urgently to achieve greater fairness in sport and activity. They are split into four key themes:

  1. ‘Involve me as we recover from the pandemic
  2. ‘Support me to feel like being active is for someone like me’
  3. ‘Your workforce can make it a better experience for me’
  4. ‘Involve the health professionals I trust the most’

The full report is available to view at

Supporting quotes:

Research participants:


“I’ve returned as far as I can to physical activities now, but the challenges haven’t changed really since prior to the pandemic. There are still issues of transport and needing to get to places because of my visual impairment.

“It’s not one size fits all. It’s very much on an individual basis and I think providers need to actually take that into consideration when they are looking to be inclusive. It would be a really good idea if they had a cross section of disabled and non-disabled people to see how it’s best to provide their services and activities.”


“I took part in a few activities before the pandemic. Prior to acquiring my disability, I swam a lot, did yoga, and hiked in many of the Nepali mountain ranges. However, since then and until the pandemic, I was very sedentary.

“I think as somebody who isn’t particularly sporty, I would find it difficult to motivate myself to participate. However, that community aspect of people working out, and keeping fit together, would fundamentally be the type of messaging that would be the most attractive to me.”


“Whenever I am thinking about it or taking part in activity, the first thing I am going to consider is, am I going to enjoy it? This is followed by can I physically get there? And also how much is it going to cost? Particularly at the moment most people are worried about increasing prices, so if it is an expensive activity then I’m probably going to say no. I just can’t do it.”

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Posted on 10th June 2022