Yesterday, a House of Lords select Committee published a report on the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Committee has been specifically set up and tasked to look into this issue.
Two areas that were reported on focused on the drive to increase participation and the perception of disabled people.
We found some positive statistics in the report. There has been in increase of 353,000 disabled people participating in sport once a week since 2005/06. Sport England was highly praised after adapting its funding arrangements after the Games to target disabled people.
However, it was noted that participation amongst disabled people was around half the rate of participation of non-disabled people in sport.
The will is there, with the report citing that 8 out of 10 disabled people were considering taking up sport after the Games. 70% of disabled people agreed that the Games were inspirational for them.
Yet the report admits that this positive hope is hindered by practical barriers. Barriers such as untrained staff to cater for disabled customers and lack of appropriate equipment. Indeed, when we reported on disability and the fitness industry back in 2011, we called for:
· Greater participation rates of disabled people in sport and leisure.
· Better inclusive fitness provision within the leisure industry, with accessible equipment being available at all sites.
· Better understanding and awareness of inclusive fitness in the fitness industry.
· More instructors in the leisure industry trained to work with disabled people.
All these asks are still as relevant today as when we conducted our research before the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Our InstructAbility Programme, which looks to increase the pool of disabled fitness instructors in the country, is going some way to address some of the shortfalls we found.
The findings on changing perceptions of disability show there is great room for improvement. The period after the Games saw a more favourable impact on how disability sport was perceived. But this is in great contrast to how disabled people in society are viewed; the fact that disability hate crime statistics are ‘the worst they have ever been in 10 years of reporting’ would suggest that the Games have failed to create a positive legacy on perceptions of disabled people.
Unfortunately, the only recommendation stemming from this point in the report is for the government to continue to monitor public perceptions of disability and to continue to promote disability athletics. We believe this call should be more ambitious and that the committee should be bolder in their ask to government to use the legacy to improve perceptions of disabled people. Not doing so fails to hold to account the progress of the lasting legacy of London 2012.