Report calls for increased opportunities for mixed ability sport
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Report calls for increased opportunities for mixed ability sport

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Disabled people should be offered more opportunities to play sport alongside non-disabled people.

That is the finding of a report based on a two-year research project by the University of Leeds and Loughborough University.

The report studied the effects of mixed ability sport on 1,200 participants and found that it created benefits on individual, club and societal level.

On an individual level, participants reported both physical and mental health benefits, increased self-confidence and self-determination as well as a sense of belonging in the mixed ability team, club or group.

At club level, respondents reported a more inclusive club culture, an influx of new members and a membership more representative of the local community, more accessible infrastructure and coach development.

On a wider community level, the positive impacts included the meaningful inclusion of disabled participants in mainstream sport.

Overall, participants reported shifts in perceptions of disability, a raised awareness of barriers to participation in sport and other areas of society, and enhanced communication, which are relevant for other areas of society.

The research – which looked at a wide range of sports, from rugby to rowing – was commissioned by the International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS) and part-funded by Sport England.

"The Mixed Ability model has the capacity to positively impact the lives of many participants and sporting communities," said Adam Blaze, strategic lead of disability at Sport England.

"The evaluation provides an important reflection and analysis of how to deliver innovative approaches to engage people in sports and physical activity.

"The Mixed Ability model offers a wide, inclusive approach, creating a safe space where people can participate in physical activity, especially those who may have previously encountered barriers to participation. As such, this document is important reading for those who seek to use sport to maximise the truly life-changing difference it can make for people everywhere."

The report also outlined the challenges and barriers faced by mixed ability sport – which highlight dominant societal perceptions of disability.

According to the report, it is often assumed that mixed ability is disability sport under a different name, reflecting the social norm of segregated activity.

Also, non-disabled participants taking part in mixed ability sport often label themselves as ‘volunteers’ rather than equal participants, highlighting the charitable perspective around disability, often visible in society.

• To download and read the full report, click here.

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Disabled people should be offered more opportunities to play sport alongside non-disabled people.