People with Disability

There is a gap in participation rates of people with disability when compared to the general population. However, there are signs that the work of State Sporting Associations, clubs and associations is making in a difference. According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), participation by people with disability in sport related activities increased from 18% in 2012 to 27% in 2015 (cat 4430.0). In addition, the Australian Sport Commission’s AusPlay survey results in 2016 showed that people with disability are 10% less likely to participate in sport or active recreation at least once per week when compared to the general population. This is not because of lack of demand. In addition to this, research by the Australian Sport Commission in 2010 suggested that 75% of people with disability who play sport want to play more, and that 83% of people who are inactive want to get active.

There are a few approaches that your organisation should consider:

  • Person centered-model. This means working to understand the individual needs of your participants and actively working to break down barriers to entry and ongoing participation. Sport organisations can work with people with disability and listen to their needs, co-design programs and work in partnership with people with disability, including when relevant their families and carers. This approach has been recognised by many State Sporting Associations as fundamental to success of inclusion programs.
  • Break down stereotypes. Your organisation will benefit by focusing on the abilities of people, based on what they tell you they can do. This means changing the perceptions of people with disability within and outside of your sporting community. Gymnastics Victoria has been very successful in changing the perceptions of gymnasts, creating a culture in which more people understand that anyone with a disability is just as much as gymnast as an elite athlete. You can find out more and view their poster series here.
  • Older adults. Data from the ABS (cat 4430.0, 2015) shows that the rates of disability increase with age. For example, while 1 in 5 people have a disability, closer to 2 in 5 people aged 65 and over have a disability. Therefore, if your sport organisation is also targeting older adults as new participants, there may be similarities in your approach. The Victorian Active Ageing Partnership has developed a useful evidence based framework for engaging older adults in sport. Click here to read it here.

Know the facts – health outcomes for people with disability

A resource summary by VicHealth highlights adverse health outcomes which affect people with disability. Participation in sport and active recreation can have a positive impact on health outcomes.

  • Fifteen per cent of Australian adolescents and young adults (aged 15–29) with disabilities have poor psychological health compared with 8 per cent of their non-disabled peers.
  • A higher proportion of people with an intellectual disability aged 18–39 years have heart disease (8 per cent), compared with the same age group in the general Victorian population (1 per cent).
  • In Victoria, people with an intellectual disability are far less likely than the general population to participate in an adequate amount of physical activity (22 per cent compared with 60 per cent).

For more information and references check out the research summary here.

Promoting and Providing a Welcoming Experience

Understanding People with a Disability



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