Activity Alliance's annual disability and activity survey has uncovered the true impact that the pandemic has had on the physical activity of disabled people.
Evidence suggests that disabled people's lives have been hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, with the charity urging sport's and leisure's decision makers to prioritise this group as part of the recovery from the pandemic.
Disabled people make up around two-thirds of the deaths from coronavirus and Activity Alliance stated that this "has led to many disabled people, who count for one in five of the population, feeling more fearful and ignored."
The new research indicates that twice as many disabled people felt that coronavirus had greatly reduced their ability to do sport or physical activity compared to non-disabled people.
The survey, which explores disabled and non-disabled people's activity levels with the purpose of helping to grow insight and shape future opportunities, also found:
Disabled people felt that they do not have the opportunity to be as active as they want to, compared to non-disabled people (29% vs 44%).
Almost a quarter stated that they had not received enough information about how to be active during the pandemic (23% vs 13%).
Respondents said the lack of activity has led to both their physical and mental health being harder to manage. Feelings of loneliness and social isolation were frequently voiced.
A fear of contracting the virus, the impact on their health, a lack of space and support to be able to exercise safely at home, have become significant barriers for disabled people.
"The benefits of being active are clear. It matters for everyone’s physical and mental health and has enormous impact on our daily lives," started Barry Horne, chief executive at Activity Alliance. "So, it is never acceptable that disabled people should not reap these benefits too.
"We appreciate we have a national crisis on our hands and leaders need to make tough decisions in sport and leisure. But we have not heard near enough about the impact on disabled people’s lives during the pandemic. No disabled person should ever feel forgotten or overlooked in the communities we all serve.
"That’s why this insight is so important. We have listened to disabled people and urge decision makers to do the same, and act swiftly upon the findings. If we do not act now, we will witness inequalities widen even further, or unthinkably they may become irreversible. Prioritising disabled people is the only way to prevent this from happening. Every plan, every action and every penny spent must be tested against its impact on disabled people’s activity."
Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive at Sport England, added: "This past year has highlighted the challenges we face in making sure sport and physical activity is a normal part of life – for everyone.
"We take our responsibility in tackling these inequalities and supporting organisations like Activity Alliance extremely seriously and working to remove barriers and make activity more accessible for disabled people underpins our new strategy.
"It is important that everyone is able to feel the benefits of being active, which can help unlock the door to a happier, healthier and more fulfilled life."
Author: Jake Wilkin