Tag Archives: #SportsForAll

“It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are”

John Willis is the founder and Chief Executive of Power to Inspire, a charity all about inclusion through sport, based in Cambridge. He was born without fully formed arms and legs, and last year he took on a challenge to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports.

In this blog he talks about changing attitudes and why sport for all is so important.

I was interested in sport from a very young age. Unfortunately, there weren’t many opportunities to get involved in sport at school.

A few years ago I was nagged by a friend into doing a Triathlon relay – I did the swim. We had a great time and it showed that disabled people and non-disabled people can do sport together, you just have to design it and think about it and adapt it.

John Willis, a disabled man with foreshortened arms and legs, waits on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool, in front of an audience of adults and children
John waiting on a diving board for the signal to dive into the pool.

I did another challenge the following year – 50 1000 meter swims in 116 days – which was quite something and it took me all around the country. I spoke to well over 3000 children and adults about sport. I set up Power to Inspire to take this even further.

Changing attitudes at an early age

Through Power to Inspire, we go into schools and clubs and talk to kids about inclusive sport and we got our games going in schools last year. Everybody seems to have great fun – from mainstream kids learning about inclusive sport to running mixed games where we take mainstream kids into SEN schools.

At one session, we turned to the P.E. teachers and said “Everyone seems to be having a fantastic time, you must always be in and out of each other’s schools with being just down the road from each other” and they said “We’ve never been in each other’s schools before”. So we’re breaking down barriers.

Children trying out new sports like archery and goalball.
Children trying out new sports like VI football and floor lacrosse

It’s fantastic to see kids learning together. It’s not just about sport, it’s about accepting people for who they are. There’s a real demand for our games in schools. We want to keep doing more of it and spread the word. We’re also talking to various clubs about doing big accessible events.

2012 created a huge change in this country. There wasn’t acknowledgment of disability discrimination a few years ago, it was just the norm. Now people are aware it exists. There’s been a massive change. Seeing more disability sport, people on the telly, it’s becoming more accepted in mainstream culture now. People look at Jonny Peacock as a fabulous athlete first, and disabled second.

Outside of the Paralympics, things do get better but it’s like a tide. The water reaches further up the beach each time, but it does go back. What we need to do is create some blockages so the water doesn’t go back so far and we can push it further.

John, a disabled man with foreshortened arms paddles his kayak on the River Cam
John Willis practicing kayaking on the River Cam

Sport is for everyone, full stop

The camaraderie of sport is amazing, with fans of all sports all over the world. That common enthusiasm, I don’t think you quite get that anywhere else.

I set myself a goal last year to try all 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports. I had an absolute blast. I fell in love with far too many of them. There is a sport for everyone and Sport for All emphasises that for me. The work I do with children, once they’ve worked out a way to do something, they just think let’s get on with it and the see the person, not the disability. I want everybody to be able to play and to be able to compete. If you can create that exhilaration of pushing yourself, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at.

Sport is available to everyone full stop. It’s just a question of finding out what you like and finding out where you can do it. And find friends, not just disabled people, but friends who are passionate about that particular sport. Last year I ended up playing tennis which I never thought I’d do. The equipment is available and can be adapted, it just takes a bit of imagination. There’s no such thing as “can’t” – all there is, is working out how to do it. Just take a small step. It all starts with a small step.

Making sport more inclusive

This summer, the World ParaAthletics Championships and the five year anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games gave us an opportunity to champion inclusive sport.

As part of our mission for Everyday equality, we ran a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport. Over the past few weeks we:

  • shared blogs from storytellers,
  • celebrated the incredible athletes involved in the ParaAthletics on social media,
  • showcased accessible challenge events,
  • did a Facebook Live with Richard Whitehead,
  • and shared some new research which showed that a quarter (28%) of disabled people did not feel the Paralympics delivered a positive legacy for disabled people.

Please help us continue the conversation by championing inclusive sport and challenging negative attitudes. Read more Sport For All blogs and catch up with all of our activity using #SportForAll on our Twitter.

Can a sporting event change attitudes?

Following our #SportForAll activity this summer and as we head towards the fifth anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. We’ve discovered that, despite the success of the games themselves, there has been little change in the way disabled people feel they are treated by society and supported by the government.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games ran between 29 August and 9 September. At the time it was Lord Coe’s view that “we would never think of disability in the same way again.”

The Games themselves saw disability given an unprecedented platform, with Paralympics GB taking home 120 medals, and para-athletes like Sarah Storey and Ellie Simmonds becoming household names.

However, our new research reveals that a quarter (28%) of disabled people did not feel the Paralympics delivered a positive legacy for disabled people once the two weeks were over. Over a third (38%) think that attitudes have not improved or have got worse since 2012.

An unrealistic portrayal

People have told us that, although the games themselves were wonderful, all of the Paralympic athletes were unrealistically portrayed as ‘superheroes’. They suddenly became these people who could overcome and achieve anything. This just isn’t what daily life is like.

There are 13 million disabled people in the UK, but progress towards everyday equality has been slow. Disabled people tell us that they find it hard to access the care and support they need and the extra costs they face mean life can also be very expensive.

The expectations for a sporting event to change the world when it came to disability was an unrealistic ask.

Time to change attitudes

Our findings also show that three-quarters of disabled people have seen no change in the way that members of the public talk to them or the language that is used, which is really unsettling.

At Scope, we believe that attitudes need to be changed in order to achieve our vision of Everyday equality. This will all work towards the much-needed action on employment, financial security and social care support for disabled people.

Sport has the power to bring people together and break down barriers. However, we need to ensure that this change in attitudes continues indefinitely, not just once every four years.

Paralympic legend Richard Whitehead MBE will be joining us for a Facebook Live on 25 August at 2pm. Head to our Facebook channel and join the conversation.

Richard Whitehead smiles and holds up a Union Jack flag

Our mission is to drive social change so that disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. Read our new strategy.

Read all of our #SportForAll blogs

“Inclusive sport shouldn’t be something we have to fight for”

Kris is the founder of Wheely Good Fitness, which offers exercise classes for both disabled and non-disabled people in Herefordshire.

On the weekend, he and a group of 32 people, headed to Dorney Lake in Berkshire to take part in the Superhero Triathlon – the first fully accessible triathlon of its kind.

Here, Kris tells us about his experiences of the event, attitudes towards disability in sport and why sport for all is so important.

There is an assumption that just because someone is disabled they’re not going to want to do sport, which has an impact on the opportunities available.

Unless you live in a main city, there’s not really a lot going on. If we took away the need to segregate, everything would be accessible to everybody and we could all go to our local leisure centres and take part in whatever it is they are running. I run mixed ability classes and there is no need to segregate at all.

Health and safety is always used as an excuse. To me, health and safety is one of the most patronising things used to discriminate against disabled people. London Marathon, for example, only allow 12 places for standard wheelchair entries on the grounds of health and safety. It’s absolute nonsense. They can allow a guy to run in a tumble drier but people who use a wheelchair every day of their life are “not safe”.

Accessibility shouldn’t be something we have to fight for. Disability sport should be given the same amount of precedence as mainstream sport but you don’t see a lot of it and when you do, the coverage of it is very different. It’s not seen as being as serious or respected as other sports. It’s a shame. And if you haven’t got a huge demand [for specialist disability fitness equipment] you can’t reduce the production costs which makes it hard for people to get involved. It’s a vicious circle.

My clients like the social aspect of doing sport. Most of the groups become like a little family. They have a drink afterwards and a chat. Their confidence improves – not only from talking to other people, but they also feel they’re achieving things in the class, instead of their impairment being a negative thing.

Two people take part in the Superhero Tri
Two of the participants at Superhero Tri

Things are improving but it’s a slow process

I’ve been running my fitness classes for four years now. Things have improved in accessible sport but it’s an extremely slow process. There are more and more organisations out there organising accessible bikes and equipment hire. So you can tell attitudes are changing. I think disabled kids have an advantage now to grow up with a much more positive attitude towards themselves that people didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago.

We’re starting to see more inclusive events too. There’s Parallel London which is in its second year and that turned out to be really good event. I was really excited as soon as I heard about the Superhero Tri as were many of my clients. There is so much adaptation. The run can be done in a chair, walking or on crutches. The cycle can also be done in a chair, they allow people in power chairs as well. You can also have a buddy compete with you to help with direction, encouragement, support or balance, so everyone can take part.

The Superhero Tri was a great event

We had eight teams altogether and 21 team members. It was a fantastic opportunity for people of all abilities to compete. The event has an understanding of disability so you’re not having to fight to take part, you’re not having to get people to make allowances for you, you are welcomed for who you are and what you can do. They’re saying “you tell us what you need in order to take part” – that’s what’s so good about it.

A group of women in swimming gear pose and smile during the Superhero Tri
Participants in the Superhero Tri smile during warm up

I was excited to take part. The only thing I was apprehensive of was trying to get that many people together at the same time, without anyone dropping out. The majority of people were really excited, there are a few I could sense were apprehensive, but they really wanted to do it.

I tried to put teams together of people who work well together in my fitness classes, or socially, so they can encourage each other and feel good about their achievements. Whilst it is a competition and it’s timed, to me and many of the team, it’s really about enjoying it and doing the best you can and saying ‘I did it’.

Most of those taking part hadn’t done anything like this before. There’s a mixture of abilities – some are quite confident and some are new to my classes and actually this was a huge step for them to take. It’s a nice journey for everyone. It takes time to start believing in yourself and realising what you’re capable of.

It was a great day, the weather held for us and everyone managed to beat the nerves and turn up. Everyone did well giving everything they could to be the best they could be. The atmosphere was fantastic and everyone was high spirited and extremely supportive of one another.

We were asked by Channel 4 who were filming the event to demonstrate our Wheel-Fit aerobics class for their highlights programme due to air next weekend which was a nice surprise for everyone and, despite being between races, we managed to squeeze in 10 minutes between transitions to demonstrate what the class was about.

Kris and his team smile and pose at the Superhero Tri
Kris and his team were all smiles at the Superhero Tri

Supporting Scope

I’ve been involved with Scope ever since I started running fitness classes. If I’m doing anything for charity, I do it for Scope. Scope is a leading force in changing ideas and perceptions of disability and leading the way to a positive future for disabled people.

Sport is a powerful tool encouraging people to seek their true potential, capabilities and discover their strengths and weaknesses, whilst creating and expanding social lives for a more proactive and rewarding life. It’s not just for the elite, the super fast or the super fit, it’s something for everyone, that can benefit everyone through improved fitness, well being, confidence and social skills.

Sport can be empowering and character building and should be open to all. It’s time to remove the barriers and discrimination and open up the world of sport to everyone of all abilities and all backgrounds on an equal footing.

Get involved in a challenge event for Scope today. Whether it’s running, swimming, cycling or trekking, we have something for everyone.

As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are running a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability. Find out how you can get involved with Sport For All. 

Read more Sport For All blogs

It’s time to shatter your perceptions of sport – #SportForAll

Souleyman is a Team GB Paralympic hopeful and World Junior 100m gold medalist. Having a visual impairment has never held him back in his sport and he is currently working towards competing at the 2020 Paralympics.

Here, he spoke to us about how he feels attitudes have changed since London 2012 and the challenges he faces in his own sport.

The attitude to disability in sport has definitely changed for the better in the past five years. London 2012 gave disability sport a focus, an exposure and a celebration it has never seen before and the world accepted this with huge interest and curiosity.

Since then, it has only improved with more people taking an interest in para-sport. There’s still work to be done such as giving para-sports more coverage and exposure on mainstream channels more frequently. At the moment, unless it’s the Paralympics or World Championships, people don’t get to see the amazing athletes that are competing all year round.

However, I think disability is finally being acknowledged in society and people are seeing that disabled people can do the same things that non-disabled people can do. They just need to do it in a different way.

Souleyman warms up before a race
Souleyman is World Junior 100m gold medalist

Sport challenges perceptions of disability

If you want to shatter your perception of what is possible, then you have to watch a para-sport competition at least once in your life. To see an athlete with no arms or legs complete lengths of a swimming pool or an athlete with one leg do the high jump is just something really extraordinary.

If you are disabled, I think it’s really important to get involved in para-sport at a level you feel comfortable with. It gives you a new purpose and challenges negative perceptions of disability. Your impairment isn’t something that holds you back.

Personally, my visual impairment has brought a number of challenges to my life. To go from being told that I wouldn’t be able to drive, read text or see the incredible sights of the world to now being able to train, compete on a world stage and inspire so many people at the same time is amazing. It’s given me a more positive definition to my visual impairment.

Souleyman pours a bottle of water over his head to cool down following a race
Souleyman cools down after a race

I’m a huge believer in whatever you can imagine for yourself, you can achieve it. It’s about finding what needs to be overcome – more often than not, it’s people’s attitudes.

As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are going to be running a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability. Find out how you can get involved with Sport For All. 

You can expect new research, blogs, videos and social media events. These will showcase some of the best athletes and storytellers involved in disability sport today.

Keep up to date with #SportForAll on our Twitter.

Read more Sport For All blogs.

How CP Teens and sport changed my life – #SportForAll

Ellie was just 18 years old when she set up CP Teens UK as a way of reaching out to other young people who feel a bit lost and isolated. The response was fantastic and CP Teens UK has grown into a vibrant community, both online and offline. Now, at 22, Ellie continues to pretty much single-handedly run this amazing organisation.

When I was younger, people at school all wanted to be my friend because I’m a little bit different and children quite like that. But as I got older, by 14 or 15 they didn’t want to be with me anymore. At the time I didn’t really realise I’d become socially isolated because I was concentrating on my studies.

I felt like, socially, there was nothing out there for people like me and I didn’t have the confidence to go out and get a job. So I decided to set up CP Teens UK. I wanted to connect other people who, like me, just felt a little bit lost and to tell them that they’re not the only people out there who feel isolated.

It made me feel less alone

At first, I just set up a Twitter account because I was a bit bored! I thought it was going be something I would get tired of after a week and never log back on. However, I woke up the next morning to find that people like Francesca Martinez and Sophie Christiansen were followers!

Other young people were getting in touch saying “I’m a teenager too and I feel the same way, it’s so nice to find someone else.” I got so many emails like that I couldn’t believe it. So I just kept going. I set up a website and then a Facebook page and it just kind of grew.

I just thought it was me feeling that way so it was really nice to know I was helping other people through my own experiences. It made me feel less alone. I’ve met some really cool people too and I even hear from people overseas.

Ellie smiles with a London skyline behind her
Ellie Simpson, founder of CP Teens UK

I want it to be for everybody

CP Teens UK has an online service so people can connect and chat. We have social get-togethers and we do a ball every year. Teenagers and young people from across the UK come together. It’s really nice. We have a RaceRunning club which is really good and we also have partnerships with some fantastic charities, including CP Sport and Accessible Derbyshire.

I get a lot of parents contacting me who have young children who’ve just been diagnosed, so I’ve set up another part of CP Teens called CP Tinies and CP Tweens. It covers 0 to 13 years and children can get involved too. I want it to be for everybody.

In my gap year, I got into Paralympic sport and it just changed my life so much. I started to wonder how many other young people like me think they can’t do sports.

Sport can really change lives

Now that I’ve finished my university degree in Sport Development with Coaching, I work on CP Teens UK full-time. I also have a part-time role with Cerebral Palsy International Sports and Recreation Association as a Sport Development Officer, particularly working on the development of RaceRunning.

In March, CP Teens UK received full charitable status and we’ve just moved into an office at the local football club. It is amazing to see how much it has grown and continues to grow. I am beyond excited for the future of CP Teens UK!

Ellie, a young disabled woman, races on an adapted tricycle on a racing track
Ellie competes in RaceRunning

I get so many emails from people saying “because of CP Teens I’m much more confident and I’ve done this and that”. I can remember, before CP Teens UK, thinking I was the only person on the planet with cerebral palsy. I think it’s important to let people know that they’re not alone.

Sport can really change lives. Before I was involved in sport, I avoided it at all costs and I most definitely did not see it as ‘life changing’. As well as it changing my life, it has also enhanced my life in so many different ways. I now don’t know where I would be without sport and RaceRunning!

To get involved with CP Teens UK and find out more about Ellie, visit the CP Teens UK website.

As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are going to be running a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability. Find out how you can get involved with Sport For All. 

Read more Sport For All blogs

Let’s celebrate a summer of sport for all

There has been a definite buzz of excitement in the Scope office as London hosted the World Para Athletics Championships. Over a thousand athletes from over 85 countries competed and it was clear everyone was behind them. The event boasted the largest audiences in world Para sport championship history outside of the Paralympic Games.

Our athletes won a staggering 39 medals, placing Great Britain third in the medal table.  #TeamScope were cheering them on all the way. If you missed out on the buzz, check out what was happening during the event over on Twitter.

It’s not over yet

The event may have drawn to a close, but there’s still work to be done.

Last year, disabled people told us they felt attitudes towards them had begun to change after London 2012. 72% believed the games had helped to lift the negative attitudes they all too often experience. However, they also told us that over half of them regularly experienced discrimination.

A group of Scope staff standing outside the Olympic stadium in London
Some of Team Scope at the Olympic Stadium

#SportForAll

As part of our mission for everyday equality, we are going to be running a ‘Sport For All’ series to encourage better representation of disability in sport, as well as challenging attitudes towards disability.

You can expect new research, blogs, videos and social media events. These will showcase some of the best athletes and storytellers involved in disability sport today.

To get you started, read Sascha Kindred’s blog on how he thinks disability sport can help combat negative attitudes.

How you can get involved

Tell us what sport means to you

If you’re a disabled person, let us know what sport means to you. Just tweet us (@scope) with a photo, video or tweet using the hashtag #SportForAll.

Like, comment and share

There will be loads of exciting content coming your way so make sure you stay tuned, like, comment and share! Look out for video and blog content on our social media channels, our blog and in the ‘Everybody’ series on Huffington Post.

Make a difference

Support us fundraisers this year in accessible events such as The Superhero Triathlon and Parallel London. Find out more about our full list of challenge events.

It’s clear that sport has the power to bring us together and sporting events have the power to change people’s attitudes.

However, we all have the power to ensure that disability is celebrated and championed all year round, not just during events like the World Para Athletics Championships or the Paralympics.