New ‘inclusive recovery’ research report to tackle growing inequalities in sport and activity

Activity Alliance, the leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity, today releases its ‘Inclusive recovery’ research report.

The research in partnership with BritainThinks explored how disabled people can be included and supported further following the COVID-19 pandemic. It also looked at the challenges that providers and people who deliver activities had and continue to have as the nation recovers. The insight shows we need to support providers to develop and recover more inclusively if we are to tackle rising inequalities for disabled people in sport and activity.

Activity opportunities and programmes are now on the rise following this national crisis. But disabled people were the hardest hit throughout the pandemic, creating new and increasing long-term barriers. The insight into disabled people’s experience in sport and activity echoed this exclusion. The report explores the challenges and opportunities as we recover and create new activities.

Activity Alliance worked to better understand how disabled people’s barriers and motivations have changed. Also, how providers can support and include disabled people better as we look to the future.

This report builds on the findings of Activity Alliance’s Annual Disability and Activity Survey 2021-22. This showed that disabled people are being left out of the return to activity. It brought disabled people and activity providers together to develop recommendations. When wanting to be active, disabled people have three important asks:

  1. Make it easier for me to find out how to be active again or where to continue my activity.
  2. Make me confident that the activity will be a safe, welcoming, and comfortable place for me to participate.
  3. Ensure opportunities are available that meet my needs and values.

Key findings from the research show that most participants still want to be active after the pandemic, agreeing the benefit it brings to their lives. However, despite this desire to be active, the research found that disabled people are losing confidence in their access to activity opportunities.

It emphasised that the pandemic has widened existing challenges for disabled people, leading to doubt in continuing activity and nervousness about participation. The research also found the increasing impact of personal finances in decision-making. Together, disabled people and providers highlighted the structural and financial barriers in sport and activity that leaders need to recognise to tackle inequalities.

Restrictions and fears on meeting others and lack of access to facilities because of COVID-19 and its associated risks featured strongly in the research. This reduced confidence or motivation for many. While providers also reported additional challenges caused by the pandemic. These included reduced staff or loss of skilled staff, changes or loss in networks and partnerships, lack of financial stability or even closures.

In the challenging landscape to ensure a full recovery, providers still reported a strong desire to provide more inclusive activities and improve experiences for disabled participants. But they are unsure on how to effectively manage issues such as participants’ confidence levels, reduce COVID-19 safety concerns, or increase their motivation.

Kirsty Clarke, Director of Innovation and Business Development at Activity Alliance, reflected on the findings. She reaffirmed the organisation’s support for providers to improve and develop inclusive practice:

“This research report is an important indication of the barriers disabled people continue to face. Our previous research found barriers to participation to be physical, logistical, and psychological. This research highlighted two further issues, financial and structural.

“It is imperative that disabled people and inclusion are at the heart of providers’ plans in sport and activity. It has been a tough time for many working in the sector and we cannot ignore the learning from such a situation. As we slowly recover from the pandemic, this insight is essential if we are to see progress. We need to double our efforts to truly tackle inequalities for disabled people, ensuring everyone has fair and equal access to activity.”

To read the full report please visit

Research briefing event:
There will be a research briefing webinar on Thursday 10 November at 11am led by Activity Alliance and BritainThinks. You can sign up for the event here.

Article by Julia Rice: