Disability Sport Info

Grassroots sport: Sport participation in action

December 08, 2022 Dr Chris Brown Season 2 Episode 7
Grassroots sport: Sport participation in action
Disability Sport Info
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Disability Sport Info
Grassroots sport: Sport participation in action
Dec 08, 2022 Season 2 Episode 7
Dr Chris Brown

This is a bumper episode that focuses on sport participation in action for disabled people. The following topics are covered:

  • Voluntary sports clubs;
  • Coaching;
  • Visual impairments;
  • Physical impairments;
  • Intellectual impairments;
  • Deaf sport;
  • Accessercise fitness app.

Each topic is available as a standalone episode on my Disability Sport Info podcast site: https://disabilitysportinfo.buzzsprout.com

Thanks for listening to the Disability Sport Info show!

Please email disabilitysportinfo@gmail.com to share your feedback. I'd love to hear from you.

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This is a bumper episode that focuses on sport participation in action for disabled people. The following topics are covered:

  • Voluntary sports clubs;
  • Coaching;
  • Visual impairments;
  • Physical impairments;
  • Intellectual impairments;
  • Deaf sport;
  • Accessercise fitness app.

Each topic is available as a standalone episode on my Disability Sport Info podcast site: https://disabilitysportinfo.buzzsprout.com

Thanks for listening to the Disability Sport Info show!

Please email disabilitysportinfo@gmail.com to share your feedback. I'd love to hear from you.

Transcript of Disability Sport Info episode, ‘Grassroots sport: Sport participation in action’

 

 

Key

Speaker: CB: Dr Christopher Brown (Presenter – University of Hertfordshire, UK) 

Speaker: RJ: Professor Ruth Jeanes (Participant – Monash University, Australia)

Speaker: KR: Keon Richardson (Participant – Blind futsal coach, UK)

Speaker: JM: Dr Jess Macbeth (Participant – UCLan, UK)

Speaker: TW: Dr Toni Williams (Participant – Durham University, UK)

Speaker: ES: Dr Eric Svanelöv (Participant – Mälardalen University, Sweden)

Speaker: RF: Rebecca Foster MBE (Participant – University of Worcester, UK)

Speaker: CP: Chris Price (Participant – West Bromwich Albion Football Foundation, UK)

Speaker: AJ: Ali Jawad (Participant – Paralympian and PhD student, UK)

 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 0:30

Hello Listener! Welcome to the Disability Sport Info Show! Great to have you with me. This is a bumper episode that focuses on sport participation in action for disabled people. We will hear from a range of experts from across the globe in our effort to understand how sport participation for disabled people works in practice. 

First, Professor Ruth Jeanes discuss the role of voluntary sport clubs in the grassroots sport participation of disabled people. 

I then speak to Keon Richardson to explore coaching in grassroots disability sport.

My third discussion is with Dr Jess Macbeth, who considers visually impaired sport.

I then speak with Dr Toni Williams to explore sport participation for people with physical impairments.

We then take a virtual trip to Sweden to chat with Dr Eric Svanelöv about sport participation and physical activity experience of individuals with an intellectual impairment.

My penultimate discussion is with Rebecca Foster MBE and Chris Price to assess the sport experiences of Deaf and hearing impaired individuals.

Finally, I speak with Ali Jawad to discuss the Accessercise fitness app that has been specifically designed for people with impairments.

All of the episodes featured in this special edition of the podcast are available as standalone episodes on the Disability Sport Info Buzzsprout podcast site. Check them out if you have a specific interest or are time constrained. 

If you’re still with me, thanks for staying. You’re in for a treat. By the end of the episode, you will be familiar with the experiences of disabled people’s sport participation. 

First up is Professor Ruth Jeanes to discuss the role of voluntary sports clubs in disabled people’s sport participation.

Ruth, thank you ever so much for joining me today. I'm really looking forward to chatting to you about voluntary sports clubs. To what extent do voluntary sport clubs provide sport participation opportunities for disabled people?

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 2:20

Thanks, Chris. And thanks for offering the opportunity to chat about this today: it's a subject that I'm really passionate about. 

I think in terms of voluntary sports clubs, the amount that they are able to provide opportunities for people with disabilities - it just really varies across countries across different schools, across sports, and across different contexts. Particularly if we look at my context, which is in Australia, and sort of looking at, you know, the majority of sport participation, particularly for young people, takes place within a community sport or voluntary sport club context. There's been some key sort of policy agendas here over the last 15/20 years which have really looked at sort of trying to mainstream opportunities for people with disabilities. So a lot of emphasis has been put on traditional voluntary sports clubs being able to provide those opportunities for people with disabilities. And I think they’ve probably achieved that to varying extents. Some sports, some clubs have really embraced it and offered some really great opportunities for people with disabilities. Others haven't engaged that much. And I think it's still, so I live just outside of Melbourne, and if I look in my local area and think, ‘okay, if I want to find opportunities for people with disabilities amongst the voluntary sports clubs locally’, there’d be very few opportunities available within my immediate area. Voluntary sports clubs are so potentially important for providing these opportunities, but it's still really lacking. 

And I guess one of the other things I'd say as well is in terms of who voluntary sports clubs provide opportunities for. So, some might cater for certain people with disabilities over here. Participation in sort of all-abilities competitions is quite popular, which really focuses on providing provision for people with intellectual disabilities, but there would be less opportunity within mainstream clubs for people with, say, visual impairments, people with physical disabilities. So it's a real mix, depending on the sport, the area that you live in I think, and the breadth of disability that a voluntary sports club can cater for as well.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 4:41 

Okay, lots of interesting points raised there. So, you said there's a bit of mixed bag in terms of the effectiveness of some of the clubs and we discussed about the locality, the sport itself, the knowledge of the club in terms of disability etc, or the impairment group. 

So, what would you say is the key kind of characteristics or traits that separate clubs which are effective and clubs that are not effective at providing opportunities?

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 5:09 

We’ve done quite a lot of research in this space, me and colleagues, looking at how community sports clubs catered for diversity. And the key thing we found where clubs do well in this space, and particularly in relation to people with disabilities, is they nearly always have an individual champion. They've got a person that's absolutely passionate about a particular area, providing opportunities for people of difference, people with disabilities, whoever it might be, and they have gone all out to make sure that their club provides opportunities for them. And I think that sort of time and time again, we kept seeing that in the studies we've done, that this one person, and often they might be a parent of a child with a disability who, you know, just wants their child to be able to play sport, wants them to be able to get engaged in sport in their local community, have gone to their local club and found that there's no provision there's, so have said,  ‘okay, well, we'll set this up and we'll get this going’. So those people are often the ones that have planted the seed, they then often have the networks into sort of organisations that work with people with disabilities or within, say, special education, and are able to recruit young people into the clubs as well through those networks. But they’ll also be the ones that are sort of looking at, ‘well, how can I chase funding? How can I go to my local government? How can I go to my sporting association?’ And they're the ones like looking at the grant applications, they’re applying for funding for equipment, for modifications, all those sorts of things. And from that, they're able to sort of build a kind of platform that enables some level of sustainable provision within the clubs. Because I think that's sort of been really key in distinguishing a club that is kind of effective in this space to ones that perhaps don't offer that much provision or don't offer any at all. 

I think other examples where we've sort of seen provision being developed - it can be off the back of a particular funding stream that comes from a governing body and the sports associations over here, as they’re known. They might have a drive on developing opportunities for people with disabilities. They give short-term funding to develop projects and from this we sometimes see things like, you know, a come and try, or a six-week programme for people with disabilities to come and try the sport. But the kind of infrastructure and the impetus within the club isn't necessarily there so it doesn't continue after that six weeks. So those kind of individuals that are just so passionate about this space just makes such a difference into how a club sees people with disability, how much they think it’s important, and how much they want to engage in the space.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 8:02 

Okay, so it seems there has to be, well at least at the beginning, you might have to have an advocate or a key champion, as you say, to really drive the work. From what you're telling me, it seems that if we don't have that individual or few people in the club who are passionate, it’s unlikely there is an inclusive culture already existing to enable, specifically looking at people disabilities, participation to occur. 

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 8:27 

It takes that person to really push it to the forefront of the agenda and what we kind of found as you’d expect and as you’d understand, you know, voluntary sports clubs are busy places, they're under pressure with limited capacity and volunteers. For many, I think catering to any sort of dimension of diversity can seem daunting, and it can seem as something that they don't have the resources to do. I think that's particularly the case for people with disabilities where there’s a certain fear about, well, ‘how do we actually do this and what do we need to do and how do we adjust and what modifications do we need to make and we don't have the expertise to do that or the time to get the expertise’. I think there's this concern within clubs that they can't cater effectively and so they sort of stay away from it really, whereas that individual person can be the real kind of key element in flipping that mindset as well. 

What we sort of saw time and time again within clubs is this kind of feeling that, say, providing opportunities to appeal for people with disabilities, was kind of periphery to their core business. You know, it wasn't necessarily what they were there to do. They saw their role very much as providing sports opportunities for the local community, for, you know, competing in leagues and tournaments. Ensuring that they were successful in those. And often developing a disability provision, a disability section, or integrating people with disabilities into those existing mainstream teams, was just sort of seen as something that like, ‘well, okay, that's kind of nice to do, but it's not what we're here for’. So still sort of see elements of a kind of resistance, I guess, in some ways to really wanting to kind of engage in the space. And, again, that's not all clubs. I'm sort of generalising a bit here, but where we sort of found clubs weren't engaging, those were typically kind of the reasons given, ‘that we just don't have enough resources. We're just too busy. We just can’t cater for diverse participants in our club structure’. 

One of the other things as well that we sort of found from cubs that weren't engaged in this space was that there’s quite a lot of sort of overarching policy in the area. There has been this drive across different sports at different times to increase the number of people with disabilities participating, to look at how to develop more opportunities to support clubs better with this. What we sort of found was that policy climate is helpful, but without that individual person really kind of driving things, well, you kind of needed the two to meet together for opportunities really to come to fruition. The policy climate on its own wasn't enough to drive change in clubs and to get clubs to engage in the space. You needed those people that were really willing to take that on and to get involved, and to grab that sort of policy agenda and say, ‘okay, we're going to make that happen at my club.’

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 11:47 

Yeah, I think that’s an excellent point. I think, yeah, what you were saying, if you don't have those two strands meeting together, you're always gonna get some sort of resistance in one shape or form. If it's just policy it's probably just seen as a tick-box exercise. And then once that policy is taken away or the funding is over, as you mentioned earlier, activity goes down. If it's just an individual on their own, they’re potentially fighting against resistance or people no longer pulling in the same direction. So I think that is really key, what you said, about the nexus between policy and inclusive culture. 

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 12:20

Yeah, I think sort of, you know, a lot of the time when we're looking at how do we address this, it's sort of seen as policy and initiatives as the top-down is seen as the way forward, but we kind of forget about the bottom-up drive here, and the need to sort of say, ‘actually, can we sort of take a strengths-based perspective and look at where we've got interest and where we've got clubs that might have people that want to sort of get this started’ and work more intensely with them, rather than trying to push something down to a club that's just not willing, or ready, or wanting to do that.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 12:58 

That’s something that’s really shined through in some of the other conversation I’ve had with academic experts is the need to obviously engage with the population group. Which is a very basic thing to actually talk about but, you know, sometimes you do get the policy just imposed from the top down without consultation or collaboration with the grassroots.

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 13:17

Yeah, and I think that's so important on so many levels, particularly in this space. There’s the actual consultation with the club's themselves and their volunteer base and the coaches within that as well. And then also beyond that, you know, with people with disabilities, with young people with disabilities, actually sort of seeing what do they want and what they do they need from their club environment, and what do they see that can actually help make that happen?

A lot of the research today in community sports side, community club side as well, hasn't really captured the voices of people with disabilities. I’ve done bits in my own work, but I've also focused quite heavily on the experiences of coaches, of the club volunteers and the structures around to understand what's happening within the club structure. But the voices of people with disabilities and their experiences of community clubs is still really lacking, I think, in research in this space. And greatly needed to sort of better understand, well, how do we take this forward, how do we enhance clubs to improve the experience of people with disabilities?

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 14:33

Okay. So, we've got the idea that you need to have that policy and you also need to the inclusive culture if you want to utilise clubs effectively for participation in sport. 

Okay, so those that are involved and are engaged and are trying to provide opportunities, how is it provided for disability in general? Because, obviously, disability is a very multifaceted concept. And lots of different impairment groups, lots of different experiences, it manifests itself in very different ways. What is the kind of spread in terms of opportunities for people with disabilities?

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 15:03

Yeah. I think that's a really good question because it is such a diverse population base and that diversity has implications for what provision’s needed to cater to that diversity. All the research I've been doing in the different clubs that I’ve been to and visited, there’s none I'd say absolutely catered fully across the inclusion spectrum. And I'm not sure whether a voluntary club would have the capacity to do that necessarily. What I've seen here is that mainstream clubs in particular, tend to only offer a provision for people with disabilities that have intellectual disabilities by and large, and generally within the sort of mild to moderate categories of intellectual disabilities. I think that obviously has to do with how much the sporting activity requires modifications needed to equipment for that group of people. So, generally, what we've sort of found is, you know, coaches might need some support on how to slightly modify how they coach. There might be some slight modifications needed to equipment to make certain coordination aspects easier, again, depending on the sport, so things like cricket, we might see slightly larger balls used and those sorts of things. But generally, the club doesn't have to do that much to cater for those individuals to participate. And sometimes even we'll have people with intellectual disabilities playing within mainstream teams within the lower leagues of mainstream teams. There is that sort of overlap with the existing provision. 

What was really rare for us to find in mainstream clubs, and it's not really surprising, is people with more complex needs and complex disabilities, clubs just didn't have the capacity or the expertise, really, to accommodate people with more complex needs. Depending on the sport, you sometimes find the clubs catering for people with physical disabilities. So, within basketball in Australia, there's been a big drive on wheelchair basketball. It's fairly common for a Basketball Association to have a wheelchair basketball league and to sort of be able to, again, although there's sort of modifications there, the actual game doesn't change that much. The court doesn't change that much. The equipment doesn't change that much. So I think it sort of feels fairly familiar. It doesn't seem like a long stretch to be able to cater for those individuals. 

Sensory disabilities are nearly entirely provided for within separate clubs. It's rare for that to be attached to mainstream provision is what I've sort of found over here. It's very mixed between fully separatist provision which might often be community providers offering sports opportunities, particularly for those with more complex and diverse needs, right the way through to clubs offering but barely adjusting mainstream provision to offer for people with intellectual disabilities that can more or less engage in a similar way to their mainstream participants. 

It's a real kind of broad church, but I think what I’ve definitely seen is clubs are more willing to engage with people with disabilities when they feel that they don't have to change very much and they don't have to sort of think of inclusion in a much broader way, in a broader spectrum. It's basically like ‘no, we can continue doing what we've always been doing but, great, we can include these people as well within that’.  Some of the coaches that we've sort of done research with as well definitely sort of feel that way in terms of, ‘well, I don't have to adapt my coaching that much to work with this group of people and therefore that's great. And that's easy.’ It's often the kind of least challenging pathway, I think, that clubs engage with in this space.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 19:35 

And, in terms of that approach, you know, the least hassle, effectively, how much of that is influenced, do you think, by issues with relying on volunteers and time constraints, all that kind of thing, but also the inclusive culture maybe not being fully embedded or fully understood? What do you reckon is likely driving that?

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 19:55

I think it’s a combination of factors. I think it is kind of resourcing and thinking about resourcing in voluntary clubs definitely limits capacity and what can be done. But, as you say, I do think it’s also this idea of thinking more broadly about inclusion, what inclusive participation actually looks like. And I also think part of it as well comes from the way the sporting associations also do frame their resources in the policy, and typically what we've seen here is where sports associations invest in this space, they do so very much with a kind of performance pathway in mind. So, it's about how to foster clubs to support teams that can then feed into state level competitions that can then feed into more elite levels as well. So it's sort of that kind of taking, you know, what's considered the mainstream sporting pathway and just imposing it in community disability sport, and you kind of see the investment in there as well. As I said about wheelchair basketball, there's a clear elite pathway there. All-abilities cricket’s been another big sort of focus, particularly in Victoria where I live. And that's very much been developed by the sporting association based on this idea of ‘well, we'll develop leagues, we'll have tournaments, we’ll have a state level team’, and really focus on this kind of performance pathway, which I think as soon as that kind of happens, and it's crafted on the idea of mainstream sport and what competitive mainstream sport should be doing, it just kind of closes down some of those ideas of wider inclusion. It sort of stops us saying, ‘well, okay, how can we make the most amount of people with the most diverse needs participate?’ And to do that we might actually have to completely sort of change what cricket looks like for that group. But I don't think there's a willingness or kind of desire to do that. It's like, ‘no, how can we keep, again, soccer or cricket or whatever sport it is, as it is, for people with disabilities?’ It kind of gets limited I think in that way.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 22:12 

So I mean, I don't know if this is fair, but it sounds to me like it is the customers, the individuals, that have to adapt rather than the sport adapting for them?

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 22:20

Yes, exactly. And I think that, and again, some of the really good clubs that are really heavily engaged in this space, will totally adapt how they actually offer their activity and, you know, will be very mindful of who they're working with and, what the people that they're working with, what they want, you know, what's gonna suit them and their abilities and they’ll change. But in terms of the structures and systems that have been put in place to support disability sport, it's very much just a fixed way of engaging in that particular activity that's kind of recognised, with small modifications along the way. 

The other thing, and I think this is true of the UK as well, but certainly in Australia, the disability sports space is very chaotic. So, part of the research we just tried to map all the different organisations.  And a lot of clubs we spoke to and, you know, local government as well, sort of said, ‘the area’s so chaotic. It's quite hard to know, when you're trying to get something going, who's the best people to connect with and why, you know, why should you connect with them and should you connect with this group?’ So I think that's made it quite challenging, although, there has been, in the last five years or so, efforts made to try and coordinate and have an overarching national group that kind of brings all these different bodies together.

I think for the club on the ground and those volunteers who are sort of thinking already, ‘Oh, this might be quite a challenging area to get into and we're not really sure how to best do it’, it kind of makes it even harder, because it's like, ‘Oh, gosh, I've got no idea who I should be working with to take this area forward in my club’.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 24:08 

Yeah. I think you’re correct in terms of saying it's like that in the UK, I think lots of different organisations, lots of fragmentation, complexity, and like you said that that can create added issues for some of the clubs perhaps. 

So, if we're thinking about those individuals who are inactive, who don't participate in sport and maybe not even do much physical activity, how effective are clubs, then, for getting inactive disabled people to be participating in their sport?

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 24:35

I think that's a real challenge for clubs. I mean, I think it's a challenge for clubs, regardless of whether the person has a disability or whatever. Someone who hasn't been active, who doesn't particularly have much of a sporting background. And if we think about people with disabilities, and we look at literature that talks about their experiences in physical education, and generally it's not good. And if that person's been in a sort of special education setting, they might not have had that much access to regular physical education. If they've been in a mainstream school, may well have had poor experiences in physical education. So not that opportunity to build up that skills and knowledge and capacity to engage in sport as much. For those people, jumping into a club is it is a huge step, and it's an intimidating one. You know, you've got this issue of starting an activity that you don’t particularly know much about, also going into an environment that you're not 100% sure whether it's going to be welcoming, whether it's going to be inclusive, whether it's going to be supportive. And, you know, particularly if you're working with coaches that have, you know, lots of coaching experiences, sporting experience, but not that experience of working with people with disabilities, it’s a lot of ifs and concerns.

Certainly, the research I've done with families and parents with children with disabilities, parents get really concerned about putting their child in a position, quite rightly so, when they're not sure what sort of reception they're going to get and how inclusive and supportive that environment is going to be. So I think there's quite a lot of issues and barriers there for someone that hasn't been that active. 

And I think again, it goes back to what we were saying about how much a sports club or sport overall is prepared to kind of modify what they do, and offer that kind of transitionary pathway into, you know, come and have a go at the activity, we’ll modify it to suit you. We’ll build it up. There’s not an expectation that you move into a sort of more traditional form of the sport from the get-go, and just how willing and supportive clubs are to be able to do that. 

I think where I've seen this transition being kind of well-managed, has been where clubs have been very proactive, making partnerships with special education units or with special education schools in their local area, where they've connected to disability groups, where people come together for other purposes, and they've sort of said, you know, ‘for six weeks of your session, you come to us at the club and just come and have a go at the activity’. Again, there’s such a lot of onus on the club and on volunteers, but where they've really done great outreach work to other places and spaces where people with disabilities are, and really trying to invite them and welcome them into the club environment. 

I think, as well, we kind of miss, when we're looking at engaging people with disabilities, we've missed the other intersections as well. So, gender’s come out as a really strong issue in a lot of my research in looking at young women with disabilities who feel particularly marginalised, often within a club environment. And, you know, if you think about traditional forms of voluntary sport, it's divided by gender all the time, and then when we get to people with disabilities, we sort of say, ‘oh well, it doesn't matter. Mix everyone in all together and it’s all fine’. You know, we've kind of ignored that gender dynamic and the gender aspect. So the work I did with cricket, I had a number of young women that were playing cricket in a disability group. They felt quite excluded and quite isolated because they were playing with young men, essentially. And all the same issues that you might have with mainstream participation of the young man they were playing with had more skills, more knowledge of the sport. They really wanted to do it but they just didn't sort of have that support there. And the fact that, because they were disabled, it was almost like it was gender blind, and no one was cutting considering those dynamics that were happening there at all. 

Different dynamics as well to consider in terms of how the club engages different types of people and particularly people that haven't been active before. It's not just about considering the disabilities, all those other intersections that will impact on why people may or may not have been active in the past.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 29:35

Yeah. I think that’s an excellent point mentioning about intersectionality. Because the temptation is just to kind of view people from one perspective, when that is just as too simplistic, and ignores the reality and complexity.

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 29:49

Yeah, it's really rare to find any sort of sporting association or policy, and certainly not at the club level, necessarily, where they do think with that intersectional lens, particularly in the space of disability, it is just seen as like disability is the whole thing and that's all we're dealing with. Okay, we've got a spectrum of people with disabilities, so there’s difference there, but without fully taking into account all the sort of other dimensions that can impact that. 

It's almost like it's sort of an afterthought and a bit of a surprise, but like, ‘oh, okay, the young women aren't enjoying it, and they're not feeling included’, but they're not feeling included because of their disability; they're not feeling included because of the gender dynamics that are existing in that very masculine sporting space, you know. It just sort of gets lost I think when we're considering about these issues.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 30:46

Yeah. Again, fantastic point and I completely agree. 

So, let's conclude. So what I like to do is kind of look to the future but also provide a kind of solution focused approach if possible. So if there are members of clubs, or people involved in the running of clubs, and they are interested in providing opportunities for disabled people and haven't perhaps currently got that provision, what would you recommend that these clubs need to do? What is the best course of action if a club wants to provide sporting opportunities for disabled people?

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 31:15

I think there's several kinds of things to do here. Ideally, try and connect with those organisations that do have expertise in this space. And that might be, you know, starting with the governing bodies, starting with your local authority, and just seeing what expertise is there. 

And then definitely connecting with different disability organisations in the local community, is a great way just to understand the space and to understand who’s actually in my local community that might want to come and play sport at my club. 

And then I think from there, engagement with people with disabilities trying to sort of find out, ‘well, what are their needs? What sort of provision would they like?’, is a great step forward.  

Certainly, with junior sections and young people, we’ve really found that parents are just the most wonderful resource, but understanding how to work inclusively. I’ve had some great examples of parents providing education for coaches on, you know, ‘this is how to communicate effectively with my child. This is how you might modify this to make sure everyone’s included in this activity’. So, I think there’s often a lot of local resources that a club can tap into it, particularly if you get a few participants along, really using that to sort of learn from those people and to understand how to best adapt provision.   

Certainly, working with your different sporting associations and your local authorities on what funding is available, what resources can we draw on to help us with this? 

And I think one of the most powerful support for clubs getting into this space was, we actually developed some communities of practice over here, and networks amongst clubs, so pairing up clubs that are interested in developing provision for people with disabilities with those that have already done it, and just really powerful hearing other volunteers telling you about the journey. So I think that’s a great way to really get going, is to talk to clubs that have done work in this space and to see how they do it. And there’s a lot to be said for having that advice from someone who’s in exactly the same situation as you, ‘so, yeah, as a volunteer group, this is what we did. This is what was successful’.

I think a few different strategies but it’s certainly reaching out and getting that information is the key first step. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 34:01

Excellent. Thank you ever so much for that. It’s been really great chatting to you, Ruth. I really enjoyed talking about it and learning from your knowledge. Fascinating discussions. 

So, yeah, thank you ever so much for chatting and spending your time with me. I know in Australia it’s in the evening for you so really do appreciate you taking the time. And I look forward to catching up with you soon. 

 

Speaker: RJ                         Time: 34:09

No. Thank you, Chris. That was great. It was great to chat. Thank you. 

 

*** Discussion ends ***

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 34:14

Professor Ruth Jeanes there providing a thorough overview of voluntary sports clubs. We now turn our attention to disability sport coaching. To understand this area in more detail, I spoke with Keon Richardson.

So welcome, Keon, thank you for joining me today for our discussion about grassroots disability sport coaching. So I'm delighted to welcome you, Keon, to the show. So we've got Keon Richardson, he has great expertise about coaching blind football and kind of general coaching experience and education. And so for today's discussion, we're going to learn a little bit more about what disability sport coaching is. 

So I think, Keon, just to kind of start our discussion, can you explain, what do we mean by disability sport coaching? And also, how does it differ from non-disabled sport coaching? So I wonder if you could kind of just start our conversations with answering those questions, please.

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 35:08

Yeah, sure. So first of all, thank you for having me, very much appreciate it. Yeah, disability sport, in its entirety, refers to sport that's been modified from its original context, or has been designed specifically for people with disabilities. So a sport like boccia is designed for people with disabilities with physical disabilities, you’ve got goalball which is designed for people with visual impairments, and the term disability sport is used interchangeably with other terms like adaptive sport, Paralympic sport, Parasport. So disability sport coaching simply put is coaching children or young people, adults who have a disability. So it could be a pan-disability session where you have people with a range of disabilities and you’re perhaps coaching one sport. So, pan-disability football. As I mentioned, it could be goalball, a sport designed specifically for people with visual impairments or could be adapted sport, which is adapted from a mainstream sport, so like blind football, for example, which is adapted from futsal. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 36:12

Okay. So, from your experience what is kind of the most common approach to grassroots disability sport? Is it the pan-disability session where we have multiple impairment groups? Or is it more kind of specific to a particular impairment category or a particular sport? I mean, from your own experience, how have kind of mainstream organisations tried to approach disability sport?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 36:25 

So it varies from different countries and different settings within that country. I think in England, for example, I think initially we went down the route of pan-disability, whereas I think because certain impairment groups want to play specific sports, I think it’s more geared towards impairment specific sports. So I think a lot of organisations are looking to introduce impairment specific sports as opposed to pan-disability. With pan-disability, you often see more for people who have learning disabilities, because there's not really much adaptations that are needed for people with learning disabilities. But if you're looking at impairment groups, like people with cerebral palsy or people who have visual impairments, they often looking to get into sports that have been adapted or modified specifically for their impairment. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 37:24

Okay. So from a mainstream perspective, I mean, to me, I mean, I'm not obviously a coach myself, but it seems like it’s probably easier to organise a pan-disability session. You know, you don't have to have specific equipment, specific coaching expertise to focus on a particular impairment group. So it would be fair to say, perhaps in the past, pan disability sessions had been focused on in the past because there isn't a huge amount of adaptations that were required. Is that a fair comment to make?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 37:54

Yeah, I definitely agree. And I think, again, the participants you often have at pan-disability sessions often don't have a range of needs in compared to let's say a group of people with visually impairments who need audible equipment. The communication is going to be a lot different; it’s going to be a lot of verbal cues than visual cues. So, yeah, I think again, there’s a lot less adaptations that are needed for pan-disability.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 38:26

Okay. And in terms of the specific impairment group kind of approach to coaching, that sounds quite tricky to try and organise and deliver because you've got to kind of cater to the specific needs, you've got to understand what is required to be effective coaches. So what is the best approach trying to do those sessions? You know, for coaches who are listening, how would they go about delivering specific sessions for a particular impairment group?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 38:56

I think it's understanding the group of individuals you have. I know that sounds cliche to say but I think when we're looking at specific impairment groups, what you’ll often have is a wide range of experience. One of the reasons why is because you often have players or participants who have acquired impairment, so they acquired their disability later on in life compared to someone who was born with their impairment. So, again, if we’re looking at someone who is visually impaired and born totally blind, their understanding of sport or a particular jargon that you use in sport could be completely different to someone who’s played football at a particular level and then eventually lost their sight, perhaps when they were 18. 

So it's understanding how the communication will vary between the two individuals I just mentioned. And, again, understanding what their sporting needs are. So the person who is born blind, they may not have the same experiences as a person who's played football at a high level in terms of exposure to different physical movements. And their disposition towards sport. As I'm sure you're aware, a lot of people with disabilities are often discriminated from participating in sport where it's just been told that there's no opportunity for you or access to the appropriate equipment, or the distance from where they live to where the session is. So these factors will have an influence on their attitudes towards sport and their self-confidence. 

So I think a lot of is understanding the person as an individual, their own experiences of sport, and understanding their own self-confidence. And what their sporting needs are in terms of what does one player does one player needs more peer relationships with other people who have a disability or don't have a disability, depending on what type of session it is. Or do they need to improve their mobility or physical literacy skills. And that comes through, again, just having talks with the player or participant, or, as well again, looking at observations as well. So observing during the coaching practice, seeing how they adjust to the type of space they’re playing in. And, yeah, their technical ability. It’s just making sure you're observing particular things.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 41:42

Okay. And in terms of how a coaching session is organised, or how it is designed and developed, to what extent do coaches, from your experience, consider the lived experience of disability for that particular individual? So, do coaches come into sessions for disabled people and think, ‘yeah, this is how I’m going to teach it and this is how they have to adapt to me’? Or is it more, ‘Okay, this is what I think should be going on for this particular session, and then they adapt to the participants themselves. I mean, from your experience, how does it usually work?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 42:17

Yeah, I think it's normally the latter. So I think, for me, a lot of coaches involved in disability sport, are often the polar opposites to grassroots sport. So typically in a mainstream sport, the coach is the boss. Whatever they say or do is the final word and you adjust to what they what they want or what they’re gonna do. Whereas, I think disability sport, again, because you kind of have an understanding of the background that people with disabilities are coming from, it might be their first time participating in sport. Their parents are bringing them to kind of have respite, or to get them to create new friends. So I think a lot of it adjusting around their needs and what their motivation for coming to your session is. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 43:07

In terms of the provision of coaching for disabled people, what's kind of the most popular or what’s the most common in terms of who it’s targeted at? Is it going to be for younger people, is it for adults, what about older adults? What kind of provision exists for those people from the different age ranges?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 43:29

Yes, I think there's a lot of provision for young people. There's a lot of different funding pots that allow organisations to apply for funding, be it your county football associations, or local charities or Sport England. Organisations are wanting to focus on developing school opportunities for people with disabilities. So there’s a lot of work that you can see that's been done in schools or community settings, and then I think a lot of charity, adult sessions or adult clubs if they want to if they want to go down the competitive route in terms of competing in leagues. So, yeah, I think for adults I don’t think there’s as much compared to the children, but there definitely is, I think a fair balance for children and adults. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 44:21

Okay, and in terms of for a non-disabled coach, what's the education like for coaches when they are developing their craft and developing their experience and skills? When you were becoming, you know, a higher ranked coach or getting more experience, how did you find the education for including people from kind of different backgrounds such as disability?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 44:46

I think a lot of it is experiential learning, so learning through experience. When I think about, I mean, I'm 27 and I started my coaching journey around 14/15. And when I think about the different coach education courses I've done, my background is mainly in football and futsal, but I don't really think there has been, I mean, the FA used to have a coaching course for coaching disabled footballers, coaching blind footballers, coaching Deaf footballers. But it was only a course for a day and there's only so much you can get out of a day’s coaching course. So, essentially, it was learning from, and I've been to different coaching settings. So I’ve coached at a partially sighted and Deaf futsal, a regional talent centre. I've done learning disability football sessions, I’ve done pan-disability football sessions, I’ve done mental health sessions. A lot of it you learn through experience, as I said. So you learn through other coaches that are perhaps leading the session. You learn from the different participants you have in front of you and how you adapt according to their needs. Be it their impairment or motivational needs to participate in a session. So yeah.

I think the academic side’s helped a lot in terms of understanding theoretical approaches and pedagogical approaches to coaching. So one of the very useful theories that I've come across is the STEP model by Black and Stevenson. STEP is basically an activity framework based on the inclusion spectrum framework model. It’s looking at maximising participation for people of all abilities, ages, and different genders. So STEP is acronym. The S stands for space, so is increasing or decreasing the space according to the mobility of your participants. So look at the interaction and movement within that area. And then you can have things like a safe zone or an ability safe zone. So, if you’re doing a tag game, for example, if you know you have someone who has cerebral palsy, so they may have limited movement, you may create a safe zone within that box, and say, ‘right, if you need a breather or a timeout, you're finding it difficult, you can stay in that safe zone for five seconds, three seconds. So it's sort of modifying the space according to player’s needs and what type of interaction you want to have. 

And then the task is obviously looking at what objective you're trying to achieve from the session and how you adjust the task to fit with your objectives. So if I'm looking at shooting with both feet, I may say the task is if you’re right footed and you score with your left foot, the goal’s worth 3 points. 

And then, if you’re looking at equipment. So the ‘E’ in STEP stands for equipment. So looking at adjusting the equipment to bring about different returns. So if we're looking at dribbling, for example, and having close control, you may want to use smaller balls. Or again if you have someone who has a visual impairment and struggles to see the ball, you can use an audible ball or a brighter coloured ball. And again, thinking about equipment, looking at cones as well. So in previous sessions when I’d done pan-disability sessions, I remember I had a session where I predominately had adults who had learning disabilities. So I'd normally use like saucer cones. I literally remember, he doesn’t often come to this session, but there was a participant there who had a wheelchair and was a wheelchair-user, and literally would crush all the saucer cones. So if I'm, if I'm just thinking, again, if I'm if I'm just thinking from this is this is my session. I can just say you're the issue because your wheelchair is crushing my cones but, actually, if you use flat markers, and I like to use flat markers because, again, you don’t have the issue of people crossing over them or people that have sensory needs or limited spatial awareness, instead of stepping on your cones, you can use a flat marker, so it prevents that issue from happening. 

The ‘P’ is for people, so looking at how people interact during that session. So looking at small-sided games, so if I've got a group of people who have cerebral palsy, instead of the game being eleven-a-side, so having 22 people on the field, I may do. The game for cerebral palsy is actually 7-a-side, but I can actually say, ‘you know, I can make it three against three’, so there’s more movement. There's not many affordances for the people with cerebral palsy to make so many complex decisions. You break it down to three v. three to focus on a particular task, so it could be shooting, it could be defending. 

I added another letter, so I call it STEPS rather than STEP. The last one is that score that I mentioned. So manipulating the score. So, in football, you score if you shoot the ball in the net. So again, looking at the score, depending on what my task or my objective for the session, how can I adjust the score to motivate the participants? Like I mentioned as an example, if I’m looking at shooting with both feet, I could say, ‘if you shoot with your less preferred foot, it could be three points’. Or, if I’m looking at counterattacking, I could say, ‘if you tackle the ball from the opponent and score within ten seconds, the goal’s worth five points. Again, it’s manipulating the score in alignment with what the objectives of my sessions. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 50:49

Interesting, thank you for that. So that’s the STEP model. Or for you, Keon, the adapted version is STEPS. I’m not sure if that’s a trademark or copyright, but that’s what Keon uses, STEPS model. Really interesting, thank you for that. On the description for the podcast episode I'll include a link to the STEP model so that people can have a look at it if they are interested. 

You obviously have a passion and interest in disability sport, clearly, based on your experience and your background, but those coaches who maybe don't have any involvement or any particular interest in disability sport, what should they do or what should they consider if for their mainstream session, there is an individual with an impairment who wants to participate, how would that coach go about adapting? Or what should they be aware of, when delivering the session for people with impairments who are also wanting to participate in their coaching session? What should a non-disabled coach who hasn't particularly had much involvement or experience in disability, go about delivering that session?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 51:56

I think with disability it's probably been a taboo thing. Or maybe within the realms of coaching for people who don't have experience coaching disability sport or people with a disability, they’re often scared to touch around the subject. It’s just having a conversation with their parent or the player about, ‘okay, first of all, do you have any medical needs I need to be aware about in relation to your disability or impairment? What are you comfortable doing? What aren’t you comfortable doing? And what is the best way to effectively communicate with you? 

So, when I was working at a futsal sighted and Deaf talent centre, I helped a few the players after their post-exit from the programme get into mainstream futsal clubs. Again, a lot of the coaches didn’t have experience of communicating with a player who has a hearing impairment, but I think it’s just understanding like, how some of the verbal cues, even understanding bits of sign language from themselves. So again, a person who has a hearing impairment, you know, if you're going to communicate don’t put your hand over your mouth, or don’t have your back turned towards them when you're communicating. One, it comes from experience but, two, more importantly, it comes from having communication with that person. Some people use a hearing aid so they can pick up on something, even if your back is turned, you are saying, whereas some people don’t or would rather lipread. So again, it's understanding the individual. That will help inform your practice because you can’t just assume this person is Deaf or has cerebral palsy therefore, they can’t do this or they can’t do that. But it’s like I said, all these factors, which are beneath the surface, about if they were born with their impairment or if they acquired it later on in life is going to affect their sporting needs and their understanding of sport and how they communicate and how they lift the spirits. 

So I think, as you asked at the start, it’s understanding their lived experiences and then we can set up. I can’t give you prescription of what you should do because it’s understanding the person first. So, again, you may have a person who’s got a visual impairment, they may be partially sighted so they may have tunnel vision. So again, think about how you set up your practice, do you use pitch markings? If it's a session where you have everyone who is sighted, you may be able to get away with not using cones because you may say, ‘well, we’re playing up to the white lines. Some people may have colour blindness or a visual impairment that makes it difficult for them to see certain colours or certain pitch markings. So, again, it's understanding the individual as well.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 55:14

Really interesting. I mean, it sounds like to me, as a non-expert - you are the expert in terms of coaching, that you just adjust it around your participants like you would in any other situation. Yeah. So excellent coaching should be what's your participants like, what do they need? You know, how should you structure it based on their requirements, etc? Rather than having that predefined idea of what exactly you're going to deliver. It's about being flexible, adaptable, etc. 

I think also what you said about some people kind of skirting around the issue of disability because maybe they don't want to offend someone or they're not sure about what they're allowed to say, etc. Kind of taps into, there was a campaign by Scope, the charity, a few years ago called, ‘End the Awkward’. Don’t know if you saw it? It had Warwick Davis in it, for example, where some people don't engage with disability because they’re worried about offending when actually we’ve just got to treat them like individuals because they are just people at the end of the day. So how do people get over that if they are just afraid, they might offend someone or they might not do it right? As you say, most of what your experience or your ability as a coach is based on your experiences, but how do people actually have confidence enough to be able to engage and learn that experience in the first place? What would your key recommendation be for coaches who are maybe a little bit afraid about getting involved in this space?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 56:40

Yeah, I think what's important is to try and find a mutual ground. I’ve worked in disability sport in different contexts and in different countries. Since 2018, I've been working on introducing blind football in Zimbabwe. And what I found was that many people were quite like, although they wanted to participate in football, they were told for a large part of their life that they can’t because they’re blind or visually impaired. So, although they’re interested in sport, it’s not something you can form a relationship on as the first point. But it’s kind of finding a mutual ground in something. So, for me, I was always interested in the Shona language, which is one of the native languages in Zimbabwe. I think what we have to realise as able-bodied coaches is that there is a power dynamic between, again you see it in the coach-athlete relationship but being a non-disabled coach with a disabled athlete, there is a power dynamic that exists. So it’s kind of just breaking that. And, for me, my personal principles are, although we do have hierarchy and we do need to have respect, it is a collaboration: coaching is worthless if you don't have any players. And, you know, players need coaches to be able to improve and enhance their performance. So it's understanding there's a mutual relationship. And, you know, it doesn't always have to be a relationship solely based on  football. It could be you’re interested in a certain genre of music, or you could be interested in art. Again, that just comes from just having a conversation with that person and just not being afraid. Because, like I said, it's understanding the individual because some people with disabilities are happy, you know, like we have jargon. If I’m working with a blind person, for example, and I say, ‘do you see what I mean?’ Or ‘did you see that?’. ‘Of course I didn’t see it’. For some people, they may genuinely take offence to it but, again, some people may be born without being blind, so they understand that jargon. 

When you're around people with disabilities more often, you just become more comfortable about not being offensive because you understand the person first, you understand their personality. You understand, like, how far you can go with certain jokes and stuff like that. So I think it's again, it's just immersing yourself within settings with people with disabilities and it becomes less about offending and more about developing a personal relationship. 

I think the challenge with disability sport coaching is that, in comparison to grassroots sport, the number of people with a disability who participate in a sport compared to people without a disability, it’s quite sporadic. It's a lot lower for people with disabilities. Although the demand is there, it’s not as significant at grassroots sport. 

If I look at my FA Level 1, for example, in coaching football. If I’m not mistaken it was over 10 days whereas a lot of disability sport coaching courses are introductory courses, it’s a day-long workshop. I know goalball have an introductory goalball coaching course, which is for one day. And, again, although it was for one day, it was quite impactful. But I think it will be more helpful if there was a longer course and it was more similar to what the FA do where you have in-situ visits where tutors come out and see you in practice and give you advice and recommendations. I think that's kind of happening in different sports. I know with the Football Association, they have coach mentors for disability football, which is something that I felt was quite important, but it would be nice to see that across a range of different sports as well. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:01:10

What are the main challenges, then, facing coaches in disability sport? I mean, you’ve probably mentioned quite a few already, but are there any additional challenges or real kind of prominent challenge that you want to highlight that coaches might face when they are trying to people from a wide background, such as disability?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 1:01:25

Yeah. So I think a few of the challenges are mainly around locality. In terms of where your session is in relation to where people with disabilities live. And, again, transportation might be an issue if they have a mobility or physical impairment. You know, it may be a cost for parents to send them to your session, so they may not attend as regularly. And again, looking at the cost of venue hire in relation and in correlation with access to funding. Sometimes it might not be possible to have a regular weekly session, it might be a session that runs for two months or once a month. But, again, sometimes it's hard to see, although you're having an impact, you'll see a lot more fluctuation in development because again, if you’re only doing a session once a month, you might see them improve quite a lot, whereas the next session you might see a bit of regression because it's been so long since the last they last participated in your formal session. 

To counteract that, for me, it comes back to your practice design. So for me I always like to deliver activities and games that if they have the right equipment, they can do that by themselves or with their friends or their parents or family members away from the session. 

I think another issue is around equipment. So again, if you're looking at specific impairment groups, especially visual impairment, you’re gonna needed adapted equipment. Also even for people who are wheelchair users, looking at powerchair football, you obviously need a specific type of chair to play the sport, and you also need, the ball’s a lot bigger compared to a regular eleven-a-side football. Again, it's not cheap. So a lot of adapted equipment is quite expensive. So even for blind football, for example, the average ball costs around £30 cost. If you’ve got a session with 10 kids and you want to by ten balls, five balls, what’s that, £150.  It can be quite expensive to get access to adapted equipment, especially if you haven't got funding to do so. 

And I think another challenge is, if you’re one of the coaches that prescription coaching, it’s kind of difficult to get that engagement because, again, you don't really have a real understanding of what your participant will want from the session, what experiences they have and what their needs are. So you may not get that active engagement you’d like to see. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:04:25

Okay. Some really interesting challenges that you’ve highlighted there. 

Final question, I think, Let’s end on a positive. What does excellent coaching look like for disability sport, in your opinion?

 

Speaker: KR                        Time: 1:04:39

For me, excellent grassroots coaching in disability sport looks like participants who are fully engaged. They’re getting a large number of benefits from the session. You can look at the technical aspects and physical aspects, but also the psychological aspect and social aspect, for me, is quite important. So they’re developing almost a family like network with the participants. They’re not only friends but lifelong friendships that they’ve developed. And for the psychological aspect their self-esteem is improving, their confidence and their desire to participate in sport. I think that’s one of the key things I think looks like excellent coaching. So seeing someone who may not like sport or has big hesitations about participating in sport, saying to their mum they can’t wait for the next session, or they’re frustrated they turned up five minutes late, that’s what excellent grassroots coaching looks like to me, that you’re delivering a high-quality experience that they want to be part of and don’t want to miss out on.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:05:55

Thank you ever so much, Keon. It’s been great chatting to you and I look forward to catching up with you soon. 

 

 Speaker: KR                       Time: 1:06:00

Yeah. Thank you very much. Chris. Really enjoyed doing it. Thank you for having me. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:06:04

No worries. Thank you!

 

*** Discussion ends ***

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:06:06

We now turn to a series of discussions on sport participation experiences focused by impairment groups. First up is Dr Jess Macbeth discussing the sport participation experiences of individuals with a visual impairment. 

Welcome to the show. Thank you for joining. It’s great to have you on. Would you be able to describe the research that’s been carried out into grassroots sport participation for those individuals with visual impairments please?

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:06:29

Yeah, no problem at all, Chris, thanks for having me on. 

In terms of research specifically into grassroots, there's not a huge amount. But when it comes to VI sport, it's quite a new body of literature, I would say. So, probably, most of it has emerged in the last 10 to 15 years. And to be honest, I think maybe it's more the elite participants that have attracted most attention from researchers. But just to give you a little bit of an overview. There's been some previous studies on the socialisation experiences of people with visual impairments going into sport. And there were a few studies in the 80s and 90s and early 2000s, but they were largely quantitative studies that were just looking at some key kind of influences on individuals with visual impairments. More recently, there's been some qualitative studies that started to explore the sporting biographies of, usually, visually impaired athletes that are maybe at what we’d class at more of an elite level, but that's kind of tracked their participation through the kind of grassroots pathways and into that elite setup they might be in. So, for example, research that I've done around partially sighted footballers who’ve played for England, has looked at their kind of socialisation experiences and experiences at grassroots level. 

There's been some work around their socialisation experiences of goalball players in the US, for example, again, Justin Hegel's been involved in that with colleagues. And a lot of that research has looked at the varied experiences or at least revealed very varied experiences of visually impaired people depending on several things, particularly the nature of their visual impairment, their educational experiences, so whether or not they've been educated in mainstream schools or integrated settings, as you might say in the US, or within special education needs schools. 

There's also been a fair bit of research that started to look around things like meaning and identity. For example, Ben Powis’s research on visually impaired cricket, delved into that in a lot of detail. Hammer’s study around tandem mountain biking. And there's been some research also on goalball athletes as well in the US by Jenks and Jenks. So, a lot of this research on meaning and identity has started to look at the extent to which participating in sport, at both grassroots and elite levels, is empowering for people with visual impairments, or, equally, ways in which it might be disempowering as well, and the impact that it might have on their identity. 

There's also been a few studies that have focused on barriers and facilitators and equity issues, media representations, sensory experiences. And I would say probably the largest body of literature or theme around visually impaired sport is around classification. Now, that's mainly focusing on part of the IPC and IBSA’s, the International Blind Sports Association, projects around reviewing classification systems at the moment. And whilst that's focusing mainly on Paralympic sports, it does have some repercussions potentially down at grassroots levels, or certainly in terms of kind of player pathways for the athletes in those sports as well.

So, that's a bit of a summary of the research that's been done around visually impaired sport, but I suppose what we're most interested in is some of those kinds of issues or barriers and facilitators that impact VI people getting involved in sport and staying involved in sport

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:10:00

Yeah.  Really interesting overview. Thank you for doing that. First of all, why do you think there hasn't been huge amounts of research in this particular area? Is this, generally, in disability research, there isn't a huge amount or is it specifically within disability research, there's not a huge amount of for VI? What are your views there?

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:10:16

That’s an interesting question. I mean, I do think that research around disability sport has gathered pace over the last decade or so, definitely. It's become a much more popular area of academic research. And that's clearly been impacted by the prominence of the Paralympic Games now. But the danger of that I think, is that it does neglect, potentially, a focus on Paralympic sport, does neglect a huge kind of range of sports that people with disabilities are involved in. So, for example, if we look at visually impaired sport, the VI sport that is part of the Paralympic programme is only a small window, really, into VI sport, and there's a lot that goes on outside of the Paralympic games that a lot of people don't know about. Even visually impaired people aren't that aware of the opportunities that exist. 

So in answer to your question around why there's a limited amount of research on VI sport. I think it's because there's a relatively limited amount of opportunities specific to VI people to participate in sport. It is growing, but those organisations that are responsible for that, are not necessarily particularly well resourced. So the likes of British Blind Sport are quite a small team, not particularly well resourced, do a great amount of work, partner up with the likes of Thomas Pocklington Trust, RNIB and Sport England and Activity Alliance. But there's only so much that they can do within their means. So when there's not a huge amount necessarily going on, then there's less chance that that's going to become something that academic researchers aren't necessarily are of and therefore interested in. 

The other thing is, largely, academic researchers tend to be not disabled themselves that are interested in in disability sport. There's not a huge amount of disabled people, or visually impaired people, who are necessarily researching within the sociology of sport or those types of areas. So naturally, you know, those topic areas might not necessarily be highest on non-disabled researchers’ priorities

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:12:23

Yeah. Okay. And what does the research say about whether sport, grassroot sports specifically, is a source of empowerment or disempowerment for VI individuals?

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:12:34

I think if you take, for example, Ben Powis's work around VI cricket. He did focus primarily on athletes that were involved in the England cricket squad. I think there's something to clarify here. When we’re talking about a distinction between grassroots and elite level in in VI sport, sometimes it's quite difficult to differentiate between grassroots level and elite level because there's not a huge kind of progression pathway there necessarily. But, in terms of some of the work around that Ben's done, for example, on VI cricket. He talked about how playing cricket for some visually impaired players was the first time that they'd actually been part of a VI community. And sport was what brought them together. So that's just one example of the way in which sport can play a really empowering role for individuals. But there's also issues within grassroots and elite level sport for people with visual impairments that could result in some kind of disempowering or inequitable situations for the participants as well. So it's a real challenge for those who are the key stakeholders. 

And I think this is another issue that really important is, with all disability sport, and we see it within VI sport specifically, is it’s quite messy in terms of the organisations and the structure. The coordination of opportunities across that range of stakeholders, I wouldn't necessarily say is there yet and is clear. Just to give an example, I was at VI football forum last week that was organised by British Blind Sport off the back of a VI sports forum that was looking at the North-West and what football opportunities there were in the North-West. And the first step with those stakeholders is to do a mapping exercise to find out more and more so providing the activities, to find out more about what each other are doing. Because you've got county FAs, you've got VI sports clubs that are multi-sport clubs, all doing things, but not necessarily knowing what each other are doing, and not necessarily coordinating that as well as maybe it could be. So there's a lot of challenges in terms of the way that things are structured and organised. But if those groups can work well in partnership with each other, then ideally, you know, the opportunities and the provision should be quite strong. 

And the other challenge for visually impaired people is also advertising opportunities appropriately. So those organisations that are experts in VI know how to advertise things in an accessible way through their partnerships reach the VI community. But maybe more mainstream organisations don't necessarily have that expertise and need to partner up with those organisations that do, to make sure that information about any sessions reaches the right people in the right way.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:15:17

And just for our listeners, what is the right way of communicating opportunities? 

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:15:21

Well, I think there needs to be more research that also asks that question that works with visually impaired people about, you know, what types of channels of information would you access? There are ways of going through eye clinics, for example. There's the health side of things and avenues that way. There's the mainstream sports organisations. There's lots of different ways in which this kind of information could reach visually impaired people. So I think it's a case of consulting with them to understand what is the best way of advertising those opportunities. But I think the likes of British Blind Sport, RNIB, Thomas Pocklington Trust, sight loss councils that are regionalised around the country, are really important kind of experts in terms of developing accessible materials and getting that disseminated through channels that visually impaired people are most likely to access.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:16:20

Okay. we've touched upon this already, but just kind of to get real good clarity. What would the literature say, or what does the literature say in terms of how to facilitate sport participation opportunities for VI individuals?

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:16:32

I think when it comes to visually impaired people, there's some similar barriers and enablers as there are to other groups of disabled people; there's some generic ones. When it comes to visually impaired people, I think there's some distinct challenges that comes with being visually impaired that facilitators need to be aware of to try to reduce those barriers. 

And one of the key ones is a lack of local provision. And when you've got a spread geographically of sport and physical activity opportunities for people with visual impairment, which requires them to travel, that is one of the most significant barriers, because visually impaired people, depending on their visual impairment, but if you’re registered as partially sighted, you're not able to drive so you're either dependent on someone else or a club to have transport. It's rare, to be honest. Or you’re relying on public transport. 

Some of the best ways to facilitate visually impaired people getting involved in particular sessions, Goalball UK, when they put on their club opportunities, they tried to have a meet and greet at a train station, for example, at a particular time to support visually impaired people to get from that train station to whatever the venue needs to be. So the proximity to good public transport links and regular public transport links, but then also that extra touch, that extra support in terms of meeting and greeting is particularly important. So if you’re wanting to attract people with visual impairment who don't have that luxury of being able to drive themselves to a particular venue, then you need to think about those additional things especially. I think they get exacerbated by the fact that because numbers are low, a lot of opportunities need to be organised, maybe spread around the country. British Blind Sport taster days, they tried to cover the country in terms of strategically having something in each region. But that could still mean quite considerable amount of travelling for people to access those sessions. 

Going back to the research I've done around partially sighted football, lack of awareness and a lack of local opportunities and therefore the need to travel, were the key challenges, definitely, and potentially the key issues that will prevent more people from getting involved.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:18:49

Okay. And if we're thinking about one particular thing that needs to be done to increase participation for people with visual impairments, what would that be?

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:18:57

I think, in an ideal world, it would be more local opportunities on the doorstep that are easily accessible for people with visual impairment. Now, in reality, there's probably not enough numbers to justify very local opportunities. But then that comes back to the question is, would that possibly be the case if awareness was raised? And if the advertising of these particular opportunities was reaching visually impaired people in the right way? So I know you asked for one thing there, but I think it is a complex combination of those things that need to all fall into place, really, for things to improve. 

I think there needs to be more research around is the demand there as well, but it would be great to get that better understanding of visually impaired people in terms of what their preferences would be in relation to sport and physical activity, and then tailor opportunities around that demand or those preferences that are not necessarily met yet.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:19:54

One final question. When it comes to mainstream organisations, does the nature of the impairment awareness of opportunities, have an influence on the sport participation of visually impaired individuals?

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:20:06

I think, in terms of mainstream organisations, there needs to be more expertise around specific impairment groups within mainstream organisations. Or if it's not expertise within those organisations, then really kind of joined-up thinking and partnerships with those organisations that can provide that expertise. 

So when it comes to the likes of putting on sports opportunities, from mainstream organisations putting on sporting opportunities for visually impaired people, for example, there's not a huge amount of education around how to do that. British Blind Sport and UK Coaching have put together the ‘coaching people with a visual impairment’ course that people can do. That's an online course. Other than that, most stuff is around coaching disabled people, and it's broader. It's much more generic. And I don't think in any kind of impairment group, we necessarily have a huge amount of education for people delivering on the ground how to tailor things towards specific impairment groups, a lot of it's quite generic. 

I think a lot of work could be done in those areas around specific impairment groups, but that work needs to be done with people from those specific impairment groups informing that in the process from the very start. 

So I do think there's some useful awareness raising resources out there. So for example, again, there's a document around VI friendly athletics, VI football, the generic coaching people and visual impairment course that that can be done. Recently, Thomas Pocklington Trust and UK coaching have developed a toolkit called, ‘inclusive facilities supporting people with visual impairment’, and that's aimed at leisure facilities, at gyms, at sports facilities. And that's specific to visual impairment, which is great. So we're starting to see an increase in guidance that’s aimed at supporting specific impairment groups, but I think until that's happened, we've only really had very generic supporting disabled people resources and guidance, and therefore it's been very superficial. So I think that's fundamental if mainstream organisations and leisure facilities, for example, are to support visually impaired people and support them effectively, and to be welcoming to them, I think some of those kinds of educational resources are really, really important. It's good to see them starting to develop. I think they're really important. But it’d be great to have more of those that are also sports specific as well.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:22:30

Okay. I think that's really good clarity. I’ve talked about this with another interviewee that disability is quite a catch-all term, isn't it, really? It belies the individuality and complexity of disability. You know, an individual with one particular impairment, their lived experience is going to be different from someone with a different type of impairment. So if we only have generic resources about, you know, disability generally, well, we can only have guidance: we don't really have the specific insight.

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:22:57

When we talk about visual impairment itself, that in itself is a considerably broad label as well. And within that, you know, you've got people from partial sight, who might only just fit into that category in terms of the nature of their visual impairment, through to completely blind. And the differences in terms of the challenges that they may have for sport and exercise, generally, could be quite diverse. And then when you start to look at some of the research Ben and I have looked at in terms of football and cricket, demonstrated that one person could face particular barriers within the sport of cricket that are not as severe within a different sport such as football. So whether or not they've got central vision or peripheral vision, and the outdoor conditions and how that can impact things. All of these factors make it quite dangerous to just label people, you know, use the label visual impairment without understanding more about individual unique lived experiences of visual impairment that specific athletes might have or specific individuals might have that shape how they can, or how they might not be able to, access particular sports or sport in general.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:24:12

Okay. I think that's a good way to end actually. I think we've touched upon the complexity. Unless there's anything else you'd like to add before we close?

 

Speaker: JM                       Time: 1:24:19

In terms of running, the activity of running, if we're going back to thinking about some examples of enablers. The likes of Parkrun along with Sport England,  have had a visually impaired running scheme in recent years, so they're trying to make Parkruns more attractive, and working hard to try and attract more visually impaired people. And that all kind of links in with the fact that there's a find a guide database that can help visually impaired people who do need a guide runner to try and access that, those kinds of opportunities. 

But, through our research, we found that, you know, depending on where visually impaired people might be located, there can be a lot of difficulty in getting guides. Not just getting a guide, but one that's able to meet you at times that are convenient for the two of you, ones that are willing to run and match in terms of your speed. But also having more than one guide, so you're not always reliant on one person necessarily. But there's also been some developments within running around, for example, last September was the first Bristol VI 10k Run took place. That's the first ever VI specific run that's been part of, I suppose branched off an existing running event. Visually impaired people would ordinarily take part in standard kind of running events that would take place and have been doing that for  many years and have enjoyed doing that as well. But that's the first time that there's been a VI specific race that's taken place. So whether we'll see more of that in the future or not, will be interesting to see. Certainly, the dependence on somebody else to guide, can complicate further the kind of being able to take part in particular events as well.

 

*** Discussion ends ***

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:25:55

We now turn our focus to the sport participation and physical activity experiences of people with physical impairments. Dr Toni Williams is our guide here. 

Thank you, Toni, for joining me today. I really appreciate you spending your time and sharing your expertise on individuals with physical impairments and their physical activity and sport participation experiences. 

So I think to begin and to help our listeners, are you able to please describe the research that has been carried out into the sport participation of individuals with physical impairments?

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:26:25

Sure. And thank you very much, Chris, for having me. Well, there's actually been a lot of research into the sport and physical activity participation of individuals with physical impairments. Much of that research has really focused upon the barriers and facilitators to sport and physical activity. So we see at the individual level there are lots of factors about the individual that may prevent them or facilitate them from participating in sport. So, for example, that might include people not wanting to participate because they don't have the motivation to do so. Or they have a fear or embarrassment of taking part. It might be that taking part in sport and physical activity causes pain, because that might be another barrier that stops people. But also in terms of actual sport participation, some people actually just don't like sport. And so they would rather participate in other physical activities, more exercise or general meaning rather than sport participation itself. 

And if you think as well about actual sports participation in terms of a team sport, or, for example, someone with a physical impairment who's in a wheelchair, to actually participate in sport costs a lot of money because you're talking about having a specialist sports wheelchair and other special equipment that doesn't come cheap. So that doesn't involve playing sport in your everyday wheelchair: you need that specialist equipment. And that's something that often people cannot afford. And then if we look at the individual as well, someone might be really motivated to take part in sport or physical activity, but that doesn't mean that they're able to because there's lots of other barriers that constrict participation. So, at a social level, if you think about social support, depending on the level of physical impairment, might mean that someone's reliant or dependent upon others to participate. So that could be friends or family ferrying people to or from sport and physical activity opportunities, providing emotional support, providing financial support. And then you see the role here of, like health care professionals and other sport and exercise practitioners, is quite important. So if you go to a health care professional who is knowledgeable about local sports opportunities or knows about accessible gyms etc., then that's really great. But it can be that the healthcare professionals or sport and exercise practitioners don't know about opportunities for disabled people. Or it might be that once you go to a gym or a sports club that’s supposedly accessible and inclusive, that you're faced with negative attitudes from others that can be quite hurtful and exclusionary. So at a social level we have quite a lot of barriers and facilitators as well. 

And then we also have the environment, the physical environment and the built environment in which sports and physical activities take place. So within institutions, you know, is their disability specific knowledge? Are the buildings accessible? Do they have the equipment? Do you have the coaches who understand how to include disabled individuals? Do you have the healthcare professionals or exercise practitioners who know how to adapt exercises for people who are disabled? And then you have kind of, again at the environmental level, relationships between communities. So does schools and gyms and sports clubs talk to each other so that they can promote these opportunities? And, as well, we see at the environmental level, the weather, so the bad weather can often stop people. So if it's snowing outside, people are scared about slipping or tripping, or it’s really wet or it's cold, that can stop people participating. 

I think we've seen a lot through COVID how important it is to have online support as well. So people don't, if they can't get out or we're not able to get out, you can still access those opportunities. 

And then again, within this kind of barriers and facilitators research we have information about policy. So policies that may provide opportunities or hinder opportunities. So, for example, with our construction policy we now see that all new buildings must be accessible, they must have ramped access, etc. Whereas if you go to an opportunity that's in a dated building, those barriers to physically actually entering a facility or having the space in a changing room to transfer from a chair to from chair to chair or having the space to be able to manoeuvre around the changing room, would be restricted because of the building, the age and the size. So a lot of the research has really focused on those barriers and facilitators.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:31:15

Okay. And it's a very complex picture from what you've painted to me there. And when we’re looking at the kind of the population, more specifically, physical impairment is quite a broad category; it includes a number of different types of impairments. What has traditionally been focused on in terms of that particular impairment within the broader physical impairment category? So has it potentially been more about wheelchair users, looking at cerebral palsy, what kind of physical impairments have been focused on in the research?

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:31:42

It's more common that the research focuses on one impairment than looks across. So that barriers and facilitators research I just mentioned was across. 

There is quite a lot of research within spinal cord injury, which is where my focus has typically been. So those people who have acquired an impairment. And obviously when you think about having a significant illness or injury, which means an impairment has been acquired and then someone becomes disabled. That's huge. In terms of coming to grips with understanding that. And that can make some of the barriers and facilitators, you know, more specific to those populations. So if we think about people with spinal cord injury, first of all, if you've had a catastrophic injury which has changed your physical, motor, sensory capabilities, that's a lot to deal with, in and of itself. And then you're asking people now to become more physically active can be quite a challenge just in thinking about, well, you know, life has gone through major change. And not only have I got to think about, you know, the impact on relationships, on employment status, on being able to get round my house, for some people, actually then having to think about, ‘now I have to be physically active for my health’, it's another challenge that people have to deal with. 

And so we see within the spinal cord injury literature, in terms of sport participation, a lot of the rehabilitation in the spinal units was typically aimed towards sport, and that's where we see the birth of the Paralympics. And, for some younger people, sports participation can be great. It can be a way of building confidence, gaining new skills, being part of that team, you know, some people really love being part of a team sport. But, on the other hand, it can also be quite difficult. People who, for example, played basketball before they were injured, don't necessarily want to go out and play wheelchair basketball because it's not the same. And you see within the spinal cord injury population as well, we have a higher incidence of older adults becoming spinal cord injured because the immediate care, Paramedic care, care in hospital has got so much better, people are surviving and they're living with a spinal cord injury in a much older age. So we're talking about trying to get an older generation active, sport might be something that they're not interested in.

So you kind of have those additional considerations that you need to make depending on the population you're dealing with. And again, if we think about spinal cord injured people as a population, and we look at the guidelines for being physically active and what level of sport or exercise participation people need to get for health benefits, we see that the generic guidelines, the level of intensity is quite high. So depending on the level of spinal cord injury and the level of impairment, it can be really difficult to hit the requirements for the number of minutes and the intensity in which people need to be active. So you do get this then development of we have some guidelines specifically for spinal cord injured people, which show that at a lesser intensity of exercise, you can still reach those health benefits. 

And when we're thinking about promoting sport and physical activity, we need to move away from messages that are just focused solely on being active for health, and that kind of whole exercise as medicine narrative that individuals are responsible for their own health and well-being and they must be active to do that. And we need to think about the other reasons that people want to be active such as because it's fun, because it's pleasurable, and it's enjoyable. You can think about that enjoyment and pleasure in many different ways such as like the whole kind of doing activities to get tired, to get sweaty, to really feel like you've exerted yourself which, when we come back to people with spinal cord injury, for example, that can be quite difficult to achieve, again, depending on that level of impairment. And, yeah, being part of a team taking part in a meaningful activity rather than just taking part in physical activity for health, can be quite important if we want to motivate people to be active.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:35:56

So, lots of interesting content there. I just want to pull at a few of those threads that you've talked about. First of all, you mentioned about these guidelines and you were saying how those generic guidelines that are provided but also then specifically for spinal cord injuries. What level of involvement has been taken by individuals who are actually from that population group in creating the guidelines? I'm just curious whether it's been designed from the grassroots up or is being imposed from the top down?

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:36:21

That’s a very good question! So, for example, with the spinal cord injury guidelines, that was an international effort of collaboration between researchers between people with spinal cord injury themselves, physiotherapists, sport and exercise practitioners; you had a lot of people coming together. And the actual guideline recommendation, which was what’s the amount of exercise that needs to be undertaken to achieve a health benefit, that information was based upon the scientific literature, which shows this level of exercise has given X outcome. 

But when you look at how do we disseminate that information and what resources can be used to spread, that knowledge that research has been conducted with people with spinal cord injury themselves and the people who are promoting those messages such as the health care professionals, because it's important that the messages around physical activity are meaningful, and that they represent the experiences of the people who the message is trying to reach. So that's why it's really important that People with spinal cord injury were engaged in those messages and those resources, in terms of getting that information out there.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:37:32

So, what's the kind of current approach to promoting physical activity and sport from organisations? Have they actually been doing that approach of focusing on more the kind of softer elements rather than just focusing on health?

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:37:46

Ooh, that’s a big question! If we're talking about organisations more broadly, the message is getting through that we need to focus beyond just health and look at the other benefits for sport. So the fact that it's about having fun, it's about engaging in activities that are meaningful. It's about bringing it bringing people together. 

I don't know that I have examples off top my head that I can say an organisation has done X. You certainly see with the charities who have been involved in the broader physical activity and disability guidelines such as Sport England and Disability Rights UK, those charities for sure, are spreading the message around what else physical activity can do for us beyond our physical and mental health. And actually, you see a lot of campaigns at the moment focusing on mental health. We've certainly seen during the pandemic an increased rise in anxiety and depression etc. through isolation. And we saw that our disabled community were particularly isolated during this time and through the Sport England Active Life Survey, sport and physical activity participation in particular decreased more than the non-disabled population. So the messages about being active now are for sure, moving away from just the health benefits but obviously, the health benefits are still important. And we're looking now more at saying, ‘yes, you can be active to increase your strength, to increase your muscle mass. And that makes activities such as transferring from a wheelchair easier, but it also means that you might have more energy to play with your children when you come home from work at the end of the day’. So those kind of messages are important too, about what are the benefits outside of just our health? What impact can this have on our lives, in terms of employment, in terms of family, beyond just health?

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:39:46

Yeah. Again, I think that's a really good point, that kind of transference of benefits that you can get from being physically active or participating in sport. 

Okay, so we understand the potentially most efficient or effective way of promoting physical activity and sport, how do we do that? And what has the research been like in terms of understanding the channels of communication that we use to actually reach our audience?

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:40:10

There’s quite a bit of research which talks about what are the preferred channels in terms of who are the messengers and what are the messages? So we kind of talked about the messages of being for exercise beyond health, how else it can impact us. 

And then if you think about who is delivering those messages, we know that from the research, there's a few groups of people who are quite important for delivering the message. So you've got your healthcare professionals, GPs, physiotherapists, etc., who are seen as real credible messengers of this type of information about physical activity information. But what we also know from the research is that this group of people don't always know how to promote sport and physical activity and they don't know the specific information. So if I give you some examples. When we were doing our research with the physiotherapists in the spinal units, they absolutely knew the importance of being physically active, but that didn't always mean that they were actively promoting physical activity because, for example, they weren't aware of the guidelines of, you know, how much activity should be undertaken and for how long. They might not know about where in the local community that somebody lives, there are activities. They might not know about the disability sport organisations and charities who can provide support. And their job involves so much more than just promoting physical activity that again, it was seen as an addition to their role and so it wasn't always something that came up in conversation. 

But you see there are policies in place such as, you know, make every contact count in the NHS, which is trying to get healthcare professionals to be promoting healthier lifestyles of which physical activity is one. But we also see the role of peers and our disability sports organisations who often include disabled people themselves running those organisations, promoting the sports. And peers are a really credible source of information. So, you know, those people who've been there, done that, who can tell stories. So we see in our research on narrative and, you know, the powerful capacity that stories have to shape our action, how important it can be for someone to tell a story about how they overcome the barriers that they face to be active, and the benefits that they got from being physically active. 

So those stories from our peers are really important, and we've seen a lot with the new physical activity guidelines, the role of others, such as social workers. You know, the people who are interacting with disabled people on a more regular basis, and how they can be really credible messengers of physical activity information. 

So you've got kind of the people, and then you've got the ways that information can be disseminated. So, you know, we've got our journal articles, but they're no good for people who are outside of academia for getting information. So we see how that knowledge is translated into infographics, which nicely break down key information. Again, an infographic, on its own, doesn't necessarily mean it's going to change behaviour. So that might need to be supported with some workshops to help people know how to promote physical activity, with some videos. So we’ve talked about the importance of stories. It's actually circulating videos of people talking about their experiences. And that can be done online through social media, through websites, etc. So you've got lots of channels, lots of ways to get to people, get the message out to people, disabled people themselves, and then to get other people promoting physical activity.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:43:50

So it's a big, big operation, it sounds like, to try and get that coordinated and working efficiently.

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:43:58

Absolutely. I think a lot of the research has also shown that you can't just tackle one barrier at a time because people are not faced with just one barrier; they're faced with multiple barriers. And, you know, we know that we live in a very ableist society that favours able bodied individuals and discriminates against disabled people in terms of accessing opportunities to be physically active. And what we really need is kind of multi-sector approaches or systems approaches, if you like, to promote physical activity. And that's, you know, quite a big undertaking, which is why we're probably still not getting the levels of activity that we would like. So, in terms of addressing that, you kind of really need approaches to get more people physically active by engaging, trying to change environments and policy. You want to be fostering more inclusive and accessible environments and opportunities themselves. You need to be changing the knowledge and attitudes of healthcare professionals, sport and exercise practitioners, in terms of educating and motivating people. 

So you need, really, partnerships between health and our community disabled organisations where we're facilitating information, so sharing knowledge about local programmes and facilities, sharing equipment. Being able to connect people together so that if you're a healthcare professional or you’re a sport and exercise practitioner, or you're a GP, and you see and interact with a disabled person, that you can have more positive and motivating conversations about sport and physical activity. And you're actually able to signpost people to accessible and inclusive opportunities. Because we see there are some really great initiatives that go on. So, for example, we had the inclusive fitness initiative, and, you know, you had these gyms that basically had an inclusive fitness initiative stamp. So this was a gym that were saying, ‘I’ve reached a certain standard of where disabled people could come and be physically active’ but, actually, it might be that the gym had a ramped access and the changing room was more spacious, but that didn't mean that there were positive attitudes of the non-disabled gym members in that space. You know, you're still faced with the same pictures of non-disabled people’s sporting bodies, those motivational messages that are very ablest. 

So there does need to be this kind of systems approach to improve physical activity. And obviously we can try and address that one barrier at a time, but we need to be addressing those barriers together if we're going to be changing attitudes, improving access, and supporting disabled people to be physically active for life.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:46:48

You’ve hinted at this and this is probably an impossible question to answer here. So I've already kind of set you up for failure. 

So apologies for that. What is the main thing that needs to be done to increase participation for people with physical impairments?

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:47:03

Okay, so yeah! The main thing, as we said, there's not just one thing. But maybe what everybody could be doing is, if we're saying we need a systems level approach to tackling these barriers, that everybody should be taking the responsibility perhaps within the organisation that they're in, the sport and physical opportunities that they partake in to be more inclusive. 

So if I give you an example. If we think about in our university institutions, we know the importance of positive physical activity messages, about being inclusive, etc. However, we also know that our sport and exercise science students, if we take them as a population, we think about in the curriculum, how much are we teaching them about disability sport? How much are we perpetuating ableist notions about, you know, the people who are physically active in sports in in our curriculum? And changing or improving the experiences that our students can have with disabled people as part of the curriculum. And if we have a look across sport and exercise science programmes as a whole, we see that disability and other inequalities doesn't often feature in our curriculum; we teach a lot of mainstream subjects such as physiology, nutrition, etc. But we focus a lot on our young, able bodied male athletes within that teaching.  So if we think about in our universities, what can we do? We just did a small project which looked at the stories that our sport and exercise students tell about disability sport and physical activity. And we did that through a method of story completion. So that was where you provide a participant with the start of a story and you ask them to write the end of the story. So we provided some stems about physical activity, about an able bodied person interacting with a disabled instructor in the gym and asked the students to write what happened next. And what was really interesting is we saw that a lot of the stories that these students were writing, were underpinned by ablest notions about what disabled people can and can't do. And the premise is that a disabled person is incapable of doing a sport and physical activity to the same level as a non-disabled person because of their impairment. And so when we're thinking about what can we do? Well, within each of the organisations that we operate in, we need to think about changing the story and promoting positive messages. So, for example, within curriculums, such as our sport and exercise science degrees, where these are the next generation of sport, exercise and health practitioners who are potentially going to be supporting and fostering physical activity opportunities for disabled people. We need to make sure that we're raising issues of inequality and social justice, and also providing opportunities for people to understand how to tackle barriers and how individuals themselves can make important differences in the way they interact with disabled people and talk about disabled people in terms of the messages that they're promoting, the conversations they're having. 

So, I think in terms of the main thing that can be done, it is a systems approach. We need from all areas; we need improvements in getting people more physically active. But on an individual level, we can each think about, ‘what's the environment I operate in? How can I take up a mission of social justice and try an improve the sporting activity participation for disabled people within the institution I'm in, within the gym I go to, within the sports club I run?’ You know, that goes as far as sport and exercise practitioners, gym instructors, coaches, our healthcare professionals, parents. You know, there’s a whole group of people that can be taking more positive action to be more inclusive. So I'm not sure if I've managed to sidestep your question!

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:50:46

No, I think that was an excellent answer and I think you did admirably to tackle that, well, trap-laden question, I think! So, well done for doing that! And I think that's a really important point. So, you've got the macro level, the systems approach, and then you've got the micro level looking at the individual, and the fact that we can all be advocates in our day to day life. And that can obviously take different shapes and forms. But if we are advocates for being more inclusive and being more disability aware, hopefully, that will filter through into kind of small changes which aggregate into bigger changes, alongside the system's approach that you've highlighted. 

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:51:20

I hope so. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:51:21

Yeah. Indeed. A nice kind of positive empowering way to end, I think. 

So thank you ever so much, Toni. It's been great chatting to you. And, well, I've learned a lot talking to you now and I hope the Listeners have also learned a lot by speaking about physical impairments and sport participation and physical activity opportunities. 

So thank you ever so much. It'll be great to catch up with you soon. 

 

Speaker: TW                       Time: 1:51:39

Okay. Thank you, Chris. 

 

*** Discussion ends ***

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:51:41

Our penultimate review of impairment specific experiences sees us take a virtual trip to Sweden with Dr Eric Svanelov to consider intellectual impairments. 

Welcome, Eric, thank you for joining the show. 

Would you be able to kind of describe some research that's being carried out into the grassroots sport participation experiences of individuals with intellectual impairments, please.

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 1:52:00

Yeah absolutely. First of all, thanks for having me. It's a great pleasure.

I come from Sweden and the disability sports grassroots level of Sweden is organized on, how do you say, an ideological level, there is no payment mostly.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:52:14

Voluntary.

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 1:52:15

Voluntary. Right. But there are very few clubs on the grassroots level, so there are very few opportunities for people with intellectual disability to take part in sports. And a lot of the research that is going on now is about increasing participation, evaluating and scrutinizing possibilities to participate in sports, but also what is participation? How do you know if a person is participation participating in something or just being there, so to say. So there's a lot of research going on to sort of determine or define what participation is. 

But there is also a focus on institutional perspective of disability sports. Because most of the people with intellectual disabilities, which I have found and read, are often very dependent on other peoples for their opportunities to be part of some kind of sports, some kind of activities. Whether it is personal assistance, or group homes, service homes or, for example, daily activity services. There are often people in a higher position of power that often, in some cases determines, which activities could be appropriate or available. And, in some cases, the individual themselves can choose between different activities. 

But there are not so many activities to choose from. For example, if you, like me, love football very much, and perhaps goes to the gym or workout, those opportunities may not be present, because if you live in a group home with a kind of institutional character, there are schedules of what you're doing, which time you're doing it. And you also have daily activity services to services where you go to to these services or activities so, for example, four times a day at a specific time when there's transport to and from there. There are not so much room for, for example, football or going to the gym, because you're dependent on other people for that activity.

For participation sports, it requires a lot of engagement and effort from the individual itself, but also from this area of society, and also the social care around the individual.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:54:18

What kind of sports are often participated in, then, by individuals with intellectual impairments? As you've mentioned about the need for support network and how that potentially then creates a barrier for some individuals, or maybe even some sport, so what sports are commonly participated in?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 1:54:36

I would say one of the most common sports is floorball, football. I think about English word, athletics. I’d say those are the most common for people with intellectual disability.

When I was conducting my research, I did an article when I interviewed athletes who were part of sports organisations which just focused on people with intellectual disabilities. So I interviewed the athletes and also the leaders. And I found very few sports organizations that just focus on some people with intellectual disabilities. Because most of them were sports clubs for people with physical disabilities or physical impairments, but not so much for intellectual disability. So the amount of choices that targets intellectual disabilities is quite few, but I would say floorball, football, and athletics are the most common.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:55:29

Ok. And you mentioned that when you were doing your interviews, doing your research, that when you spoke to sports organisations, it was often probably physical impairments that were being focused on. Why was that the case and what is it about intellectual impairment that is not appealing or is not part of the focus for these organisations?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 1:55:51

When I talked to the leaders about their view of the athletes. I trace back, when I talked to the athletes, first, I talked to them about their participation, how they think about sports, about their being an athlete. And they identified themselves as an athlete. They are not disabled athletes; they are athletes. But they said they were a part of disability sports, so they were very aware or had quite a lot of experiences of organizations regular sport, so to say.

But when I talked to the leaders, I said that other athletes, they identified themselves as athletes, it's part of their identity, what they are doing, it makes them feels strong. The leaders didn't acknowledge them as athletes. It was just something that they did or an activity or they were having fun. They didn't see them as athletes, but the athletes themselves identified themselves as athletes.

I did another research about this, where I sort of did a discourse analysis on how you talk about disability sports. And I found that intellectual disability could be wrapped up in cotton, so to say. You try to protect them and not expose them of dangers, so to say. And sports could be one of those ways, because when I began talking, it was that you were dependent on, for example, staff group homes, daily activity services, the people around you, to be part of these activities. And when these peoples around the individual may not like sports, so there is not time for sports, disability sport could be something that could endanger or be potentially harmful in a way. You sort of wrap in cotton and try to protect the individual. 

There was also talk about disability as sort of inconvenience. It was more work and it was, yeah, a sort of inconvenience, that disability was constructed or talked about as an inconvenience. It becomes a problem going to and forth, and what if it hurts itself disability sport, who shall you call then, that kind of thing. So you’re trying to protect but it also could be viewed as an inconvenience and a problem.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:58:10

Ok. that's really interesting. 

So, we were talking off air about how, in Sweden, perhaps the approach and perception of disability is often medicalised in nature, and that seems to be shining through from what you're talking about in terms of organisations and leaders’ approach to providing opportunities for intellectual impairments. Is that a fair assessment?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 1:58:30

Yeah. I would say that.  

I’m a doctor in social work and one of the main focuses that I have in social work is that we work with a social perspective. But disability services and legislations are based on a sort of a medical diagnosis and a medical perspective, which I, in a way, think is necessary as well. You need to have a sort of categorisation in order to have the correct services and availability to certain locations, for example, daily activity services for disability sport. But it is what we do with this categorisations that may become a problem. To have the categorisation in itself doesn't have to be a problem or result in marginalisation. But what we do with it can be a problem. For example, if we see disability as an inconvenience or a problem when creating opportunities to be part of sporting activities, for example. 

So I would say there is a medicalised focus, which I think is necessary, but it is how you work with it that can be problematic for the individual.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 1:59:36

Ok. Yeah. So I mean from what I’m getting from this conversation is that maybe some organisations aren't necessarily actually speaking with their target group or the individuals they're trying to work with. It is a non-disabled perspective being imposed and kind of being filtered through in terms of attitudes, rather than actually thinking about how we can enable and empower these individuals to participate in sport. 

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 1:59:59

Exactly. When I talked to the athletes and the leaders. And with disabilities sports, as I have found it when I have talked to these people, are built up that you cannot be a part of the regular sports here. That is sort of the discourse of the way you talk about disability. You are deviant so you cannot be in this place. So we have created another place here, which is the place where you can participate on your terms, so to say. Which is a good idea, the idea of the sports organisation is to increase sport participation, self-determination, creating something good. But by doing this binary view of sports where you have regular sports and disabled sports, even if the aim is to provide something good with increased participation, what it does is also to increase segregation between those. And also sort of point out individuals you cannot be part of here so you’re part of that. So being a part of disability sport can be both something positive, but also something negative. It could create a sort of identity of an athlete. You can increase your self-determination and sort of strengthen who you are, an expression to be who you want to be. But at the same time, it could be stigmatising because you're labelled as a disabled athlete or disabled person. 

I have an example which connects to the disability sports, how you talk about it and how you segregate it, but it is from daily activity services. There was a staff walking at the town and she saw one of the persons that she worked with at the daily activity services. And the staff had her working clothes on and she walked towards this person and greeted her and said, ‘hi, how are you?’ and the person didn't want to say hello to the staff. She just ignored her and then they awkwardly walked away. And when I talked to the individual that had this daily activity services, she said that, ‘I didn't want it to say hello to her at town because she had her working clothes on’. She didn't want to be connected to the daily activity services and that's because that is a categorisation as disabled. 

So there is a lot of stigma in the categorisation. So that's what I said earlier that the medical perspective can be good, but it’s what we do with it that’s important.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:02:27

Yeah. It’s interesting as well because it's quite a different approach to what we have in the UK. So we've often had the concept of mainstreaming, where it is the non-disabled organisation’s responsibility to include both non-disabled and disabled people. Theoretically, that's a good approach, but maybe some organisations implement it well and some perhaps not so well. So it's interesting to have the contrast, and of course with all these things it's how you implement them and how you utilise it. In itself, they’re not necessarily bad or good, but it can be used in negative or positive ways and it's just interesting to see the different approaches.

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:03:03

Yeah, yeah. Because I was wondering, in the UK, there is a lot of focus on social view of disability.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:03:08

Social model, yeah.

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:03:09

Yeah. And in Sweden there's a lot of focus on the relational model where you sort of acknowledge the medical and social model. I mean both have their pros and cons. My view is more towards the social model or cultural model of disability but, I would say that. disability politics in Sweden is built upon the relational model.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:03:30

Yeah. The influence and importance of policy shines through, you know. If it's being set up from the top, then, you know, the actors are going to be implementing the policy that has been set from above. So, yeah, really interesting. 

So when we look at grassroots sport participation itself, what are the kind of experiences that go on for individuals with intellectual impairment? What are the benefits, what are the challenges, what are the enablers? Are you able to kind of speak about those kind of points?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:03:59

One of the big things of being part of disability sport which is just wonderful when I went to different sports clubs and talked to them, I mean, it was the love they expressed of identity construction; being able to express who I want to be and what I want to do. And these are for the individuals that had opportunities to be part of disability sports, and these people often had families that were very supportive or school environments that were supportive. And also showed, presented different opportunities to be part of disability sports. But the one thing that is, it is the identity that disability sport provides. It is both an individual identity - finding yourself - but also sort of a collective identity. 

One of one of the athletes that I interviewed said that with disability sports everybody can participate, no matter what. And that is something that I didn't really find when I talked to the leaders because their focus was on having fun and don't pressure individuals. Whereas the individual themselves, I mean, they competed, they were athletes. There was so different views of what being an athlete really is. 

I wrote a Swedish article about this, which is titled, ‘the two edged sword’, where disability sport is constructed as something that could be positive, but also negative. It could be invigorating but also negative. It could strengthen your identity of being an athlete and, as I said, being who you want, but also stigmatizing; you’re being labelled as disabled. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:05:46

So, just from what you're telling me, there's a lot of benefits for the individual. That’s clear. You focused quite a lot on the identity construction. However, that idea, that thought, doesn't seem to be pervasive in the minds of those who provides sports opportunities or could provide sports opportunities. So how do we bridge that gap? How do we communicate that, actually, it's not a risky enterprise, it's not about danger. Let's turn it around and make it more of a positive thing and actually, look, we can provide benefits to these individuals, and we should be providing sport participation opportunities. How do we bridge that gap, do you think?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:06:28

I've thought about this a lot and also tried to answer one of these questions in my dissertation. And the simple answer is sort of talk about it. Talk about what disability is. Talk about what an athlete is. Talk about how you see yourself and talk about how others see other people. 

But one of the sort of boring answers is resources also. There are some researchers I know and I have also found it that disability sports and sports in general tend to have quite a low status within social care, because you focus on the care aspect of social rather than social aspects of social care. So one of the main thing is to increase the knowledge about what sports can do, the knowledge about the benefits that sports can do within social care.

I know that just in my department here that sports are not a big part of social care or social work, for that matter, even though there are so much research of the benefits of sports, whether it is physical, psychological, social benefits. 

So talk about what sport does but also it needs to happen on a higher political level in terms of resources for different social care interventions, for example, daily activity services, group homes, personal assistance, because those are often enablers or gateways to different sports activities.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:08:00

Yeah. No, I completely agree. It's not just going to be a one solution thing, you’ve got to focus on it quite holistically, you know, broadly. And, as you said, there's social aspects and, in terms of the environment, there's also, of course, the organizations, etc. 

So this question is probably gonna be quite hard to answer them. So I apologise in advance, but what is the main thing that needs to be done to increase participation for people with intellectual impairments?

It’s a tricky one!

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:08:27

Yeah. Absolutely. I mean there are a lot of research going on now that sort of try to distinguish what, I mean experiences of disability and experiences of being part of different activities. I think these kind of researchers are great because they increase the social awareness in the community about what disability is. But also, one thing that I focus a lot on is commercials, everyday talk, TV series. How disability is depicted in everyday community because that also increases the awareness of individuals. 

I start my dissertation with the word ‘idiot’ because that was the way of talking about people in not so long ago, and it has happened so much in the recent years, but it could happen so much more. So sort of increased awareness and I, I really don't know how explicitly how to do it. Because it needs to happen, as I said earlier, on a high political level, it needs a lot of resources, but what we can do is talk about it.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:09:40

Yes, yeah exactly. 

And what were you talking about actually has kind of just led me to another question, if I can be so bold, to ask you another one. 

How do you think intellectual impairment is seen compared to other impairment groups or other disabilities? And how does that influence the sport participation that is available?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:09:59

I would say there is a lower status than other kinds of impairments or disabilities.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:10:05

Why, why would that be?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:10:07

One of the reasons is what I said earlier that you are sort of wrapped in cotton. Disability becomes an inconvenience. It can become sort of a problem when you're doing things. Because from a normative perspective you deviate from intellectual cognitive ideals of how an ideal human should be. And that is sort of a horrific way to look at disability; just seeing that you are sort of a normative deviant. And you focus so much on what the individual cannot do, so you forget to look at what the individual can do. And that is also one way that you, with your previous question, change perspective on how you look at things. 

So, if you focus rather on what you can do rather than what you cannot do. And that is also one of the things that enables or hinders availability to take part in disability sports, whether you focus on what individual can do and what you cannot do.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:11:02

Is there any kind of positive work that you'd like to highlight in terms of what's going on at the ground level in terms of sport participation opportunities and experiences?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:11:09

I’m trying to think. I mean my research, obviously, is really good!

My research focuses more on the processes of categorisation and labelling people, which is a big part of sports. I mean, if we look at Special Olympics or those kinds of events, there are different categorisation for different competitive categories within that, so categorisations, labelling on a grassroot level or social care level is also important for disability sports. So how we are working and talking about the labelling process and the categorisation process is a big part. 

But I don't have any specific names but there is great research that focus on these kind of labelling and categorisation processes. If you look at, for example, able mindedness and those kind of things. 

I mean one of those things that really inspired me when I started to look upon disability sport and how it is experienced is, I mean able mindedness, what is an able body and what is a disabled body, or something like that.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:12:19

Okay, all right. Well, I think we've covered quite a lot there. Is there anything you'd like to finally add before we close our discussion for today?

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:12:27

Just be open and talk about different things, but also be reflexive about how you talk about it and why you talk about it. So you have a sort of an agenda and idea with your talk. And be open for other people's perspective.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:12:42

Yes, I think that's really important and a really great point to end: be open minded. That's the best way to have progress, hopefully.

Well, Eric, thank you ever so much. It's been great chatting with you and great to have this conversation about intellectual impairments and the experiences in Sweden. 

So thank you ever so much, and it's great to catch up, and I look forward to seeing you soon.

 

Speaker: ES                         Time: 2:13:00

Thank you very much for being here.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:13:02

Thank you. 

 

*** Discussion ends ***

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 2:13:03

The final impairment group discussion is on Deaf sport. Chris Price and Rebecca Foster MBE joined me to discuss the sport participation experiences of individuals with a hearing impairment 

I’m delighted to be joined by Rebecca Foster MBE, and Chris Price from the West Bromwich Albion Football Foundation. Welcome Rebecca and Chris, thank you for speaking with me today.

To begin, please can you describe research that has been carried out into the sport participation experiences of Deaf or hard of hearing individuals? 

 

Speaker: RF                        Time: 02:13:32

First of all, Christopher, thank you very much for giving us this platform to actually share some of our knowledge and hope that it will be helpful to anybody that listens, or everybody that listens. 

I'll be very brutally honest and say that, as far as research in Deaf studies goes, full stop, is very limited, especially with Deaf sport. So a lot of the papers are currently somewhat dated. Still, the message is very, very important, but they are looking at the 1990s, 1980s. So David Stewart was a very key person, Martin Atherton, a number of great authors, Deaf sport in particular, especially around Deaflympics or silent games as they used to be known. I think there's more people that are looking at globally socialisation of sports. So, myself, Professor Hayley Fitzgerald, and Dr Annette Stride looked at the socialisation of Deaf people in sport, but I think to probably make it more accessible for people who are interested in the reading about Deaf sport in particular, there's a cracking book called, ‘Same Spirit, Different Team’. And it's the politicisation of the Deaflympics and it was written by Stuart Harrison who’s very much embedded within the Deaf community and has bags of experience for Deaflympics, Deaf Sport, etc. But it's not a hard and fast academic text, but I would recommend it because he goes back, it’s probably one of the first pieces of historical data for UK Deaf history, that would maybe be of interest for some people. I know I certainly found it interesting.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:15:06

Why do you think there's not been much research, then, into the experiences of Deaf or hard of hearing individuals and their sport participation?

 

Speaker: RF                        Time: 02:15:15

From my perception, it's an area of disability that is often very hidden. We're living in a very ableist world where it's very difficult sometimes to actually notice who may have a hearing impairment or Deaf. And I think because there's no physical attributes to that, I think a lot of hearing people might make the assumption that, ‘well, you just muddle along, don’t you? There's nothing different, nothing wrong, no disadvantage’, whereas, of course, there is actually a lot of balance issues. There's lots of sort of developmental of understanding concepts that might be compromised as well because the language or communication system might be slightly delayed. So I think people have often made the assumption that there isn't necessarily a great need. But, of course, as I work with a lot of students, there is need because it's about giving a voice to particular groups as well. So I do think it is often overlooked because there's other more, for the want of a better word, ‘sexier’ disabilities that people want to get to grips with. 

I don't know, Chris, if that's true for you at all?

 

Speaker: CP                        Time: 02:16:18

I definitely agree. Because it's more forgotten about, that perception that hearing impaired can just fit in with mainstream, there's not that need to research as much. I think for someone with a hearing impairment; we haven't got that voice. We haven't got that platform because we're not as equally represented compared to other disabilities. So, again, I use the example of the Deaflympics against the Paralympics. You look at the funding gaps. You look at the voice that Paralympians have compared to Deaflympians, there’s not that platform for people with a hearing impairment to actually say, ‘do you know what? There's something wrong here’. And to have that focus on them for others to think, ‘actually, we need to change that’. As much as you have Paralympians highlighting  the disadvantages they might have or the difficulties they might face. With hearing impairment, it’s that perception that, for me, once I put my hearing aids in, I can just get on with life. I haven’t got that voice because people say, ‘well, you’re not that disabled, are you?’ Because you can just put your hearing aids in and cope with the world, more so than someone with a visual impairment or a physical impairment where it’s a lot more obvious

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:17:37

Oh, Okay. So, there’s probably an issue in terms of the involvement, perhaps side-lining of people who have hearing impairments or who are culturally Deaf. 

So we’ve looked at elite sport, and we’ve discussed how the funding is primarily allocated to Paralympic sport from UK Sport. What about grassroots sport? So, when we’re looking at grassroots sport experiences for those individuals with hearing impairments, what’s it like? From your perspective Chris, but also you, Rebecca, too. 

 

Speaker: CP                        Time: 02:18:09

For me, I think parents are by far the biggest decider of grassroots sport for Deaf individuals. I obviously work in the disability department. My role is to get children with a hearing impairment to disability specific sessions. Parents can either help or hinder depending on their own perceptions. So, for me, my upbringing was I was almost turned away from Deaf sport. It was kind of, again, let him get into mainstream, fit into mainstream. If he can get into mainstream there’ll be more opportunities, that kind of thing, and that reflected on my grassroots football experience. So I then played mainstream football: it was very much a mainstream experience. Now I’m on the flipside I can see that replicated. If parents are oral, so if they don’t sign, then they’re very much kind of, ‘let’s get them into mainstream teams, let’s get them into a mainstream football team’. If they sign, then, straight away, they go into mainstream sessions, they’re getting turned away because coaches are not Deaf aware, coaches can’t sign, can’t communicate. They’re almost pushed to the side, and then they come to our SEND sessions, where we have the ability and awareness to communicate with them. So, it’s kind of, if they fail at mainstream, they then go down the disability route more so than they will instantly go to that disability specific session. However, if they do sign, then, they go into almost the Deaf culture which has been set up so it’s just hearing impairment specific sessions. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:20:06

Thanks, Chris. Anything to add, Rebecca?

 

Speaker: RF                        Time: 02:20:08

I think access to sport is again, very much determines, I think Chris is right, on the parents or the carers that might be able to take the child there, but I think clubs and schools have got a point to play within that because if the teachers don't know about other opportunities that the children can go to. So I know, I'll be honest, that when I was teaching in schools as a young 22 year-old, I didn't actually know that Deaflympics existed. So therefore, I wasn't in a position to promote Deaflympics even though I may have had people in my class who were hearing impaired or were Deaf. So I think our job is to raise awareness in schools and clubs in order to give children who are losing their hearing or gaining deafness, I like to say, as a way to perhaps say that you can perhaps dip your toe in mainstream opportunities, also see and embrace your Deaf identity by going towards more specialist Deaf sports. But I think the profile is incredibly low for Deaf sports. And I think Chris is right. If you're good enough as a Deaf athlete, you are then expected to go into the mainstream ether but really the opportunity for that regarding communication, and for my sport, athletics, you know, hearing the call out for events, having that one to one with coaches that might not feel comfortable in being able to communicate and articulate, all of these things as a hearing person, well, we think that's normal. We'll access it. But it does prove to be a barrier for people who are not able to hear. So I think the opportunity is somewhat more challenging, not impossible, but challenging, but can be easily remedied by teachers promoting other disability sports whether or not they'd be an athlete with short stature, child with Down syndrome, you know, Special Olympics, dwarf sports. We've got all of these, but it's just a question of raising that profile.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:22:03

You've both talked about the children angle. What about adults? In terms of their sport participation experiences, is there anything that differs from experiences of children and what you’ve talked about so far? 

 

Speaker: RF                         Time: 02:22:17

No, I think one of the Deaflympians who did extremely well in Taipei was a 40 year-old woman who'd only just come to know about Deaf sport and was a bronze medal winner. And she said, ‘the only reason I found out about Deaflympics is through Facebook’. And so I think the culture, I mean even when we come back from Deaflympics, media coverage is very low. So I think, again, that our ableist culture, if you've got a hearing impairment and going into a very dominant hearing culture, it takes quite a lot of self-esteem and confidence to be able to walk into that if you're a lone, hearing impaired person. So I think it probably gets more difficult unless you're part of a community that might go and access a club together. That's from my point of view, when I've done outreach work in the community for Deaf groups, but I don't know what you think, Chris?

 

Speaker: CP                        Time: 02:23:18

The one thing that stands out to me, I think adults are more culturally aware of their entitlements and are very quick to highlight that. For example, when we work with a Deaf men’s team, they were very quick to highlight that we didn't have a proper interpreter. We kind of just put in myself and obviously a couple of other coaches that knew basic sign language, and then we used other nonverbal communication, whiteboards, and hand gestures, but there wasn't that knowledge of being able to interpret and have that type of conversation. So a lot of our sessions we're very heavily football based as opposed to having that general conversation that you might have. With grassroots, because I think the children may have grown up just, you know, you've got to get used to it, you've got to cope, you’ve got to adapt, looking to what everyone else is doing and copy that. But I think with adults, if they’re aware of what they’re entitled to, they’re very quick to say, ‘well, there's not an interpreter in place’ or ‘you can't communicate with me. We don't understand’.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:24:28

Okay. So adults, perhaps, are more aware of the barriers, potentially are more confident to challenge the barriers they may experience, whereas, again, if we’re generalising, for children, perhaps, it’s more they just want to participate. They want to play. Perhaps they might copy what they see other children doing just to fit in and get along with it, whereas adults and, of course, it won’t be all adults, might be more empowered to speak up and challenge any barriers they are experiencing, or any discrimination they might be facing. 

Okay. So we’ve talked about some of the challenges. So what needs to happen to then facilitate increased sports participation for people with a hearing impairment or those who are Deaf? I’ll go to  you first, Rebecca, and then we’ll go to you, Chris, as a final comment on this particular question. 

 

Speaker: RF                        Time: 02:25:23

I think a very simple aspect that can be considered is that of Deaf awareness. I think if any club member was able to be a little bit more Deaf aware in how to greet someone that might have a hearing impairment into their club, and just either just show them the routine, explain maybe one to one, why they need to, this is where they go, etc. and introduce them to key people I think it will be ideal, and it’s sort of looking at people's attitudes. So I do think if we demystified the myth of not every Deaf person uses sign, some people have some level of hearing, make sure that you face them. There's no light behind you, like glaring light in their eyes. All of these simple things could all of a sudden empower a hearing person to think, ‘well, I can do that’. And if my face is very welcoming about coming into a club and my body language is possible, you don't necessarily need to sign to that degree. So I think that as an example of being Deaf aware. And just be open minded. I think schoolteachers need to promote the Deaflympics but I think they need to promote all different avenues of disability sport also. But I think with what we do at university, what we do in our daily lives is to speak up, so if we do see an element of someone that's trying to hear someone and they've got a face mask on, it's okay to sort of say, ‘oh, shall I take my mask down? Or would you like me to, you know, can I help in any way?’ And if that person requires help, they'll say, ‘yeah, okay, I could do with a bit of help’, or they'll say, ‘No, thank you’. So I think there's a lot of things that we can do in our own little corner, in ourselves, but in the community with which we operate as well. That's what I think. I don't know about yourself, Chris.

 

Speaker: CP                        Time: 02:27:12

Yeah. I was going to say awareness is massive. I think it's demystifying those perceptions that someone with a hearing aid can’t hear or in terms of can't communicate with someone. So, just because they’ve got a hearing aid doesn’t instantly mean they know sign language. It doesn't mean that they can't hear anything at all. It’s just kind of flipping it and thinking, well, actually they can hear, but it’s the sounds they don’t know are there they can’t hear. That’s a big one for me, sort of, the first thing is, okay, I’ve got a hearing aid, that means I can’t hear. Well, actually, I can hear. I can’t hear everything, but I can hear. So it’s kind of demystifying some of those elements as well as obviously just raising that awareness of, actually, we’re not alien. We’re not completely different. We can still lead the same lives as everyone else. We can still communicate, whether it takes just a little bit extra, whether it just means writing something down, whether it means using, you know, similar hand gestures as you can. So, for example, if you don’t know the sign for cup of tea in sign language, you might just kind of, you know, mimic a cup, you might mimic a drink, you know, you might spell it with your fingers. Just having that awareness in the back of their minds that they might not actually know what’s been said but they might not necessarily want to raise that. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:28:40

Okay, then. So, what is the main thing that needs to be done to increase grassroots sport participation for individuals with a hearing impairment or who are culturally Deaf? And do we need to distinguish between individuals who are culturally Deaf and those with a hearing impairment?

 

Speaker: RF                        Time: 02:28:57

What more can be done? Unfortunately, well, fortunately, unfortunately, I'm going to be quite controversial in as much as, because there are very few specialist Deaf schools now; a lot of children are in mainstream education. And whereas before when there was a hearing impaired unit, you would get a lot of children with hearing impairments together, and that could almost be a readymade school, after school team or club, socialisation friendship groups. And what I'm finding now is, because of the mainstream setup, there may be only one hearing impaired or Deaf child in a school, two in another, and therefore that kind of socialisation has really sort of been watered down. So, hearing impaired children are kind of probably forced only to go into the mainstream field. And, again, a lot will be able to benefit hugely from that. But I think to also know that there is a Deaf sport pathway could really be the making of someone's Deaf identity as well. And I think that just still needs to be publicised. So through UK Deaf Sport’s website, there are social events. There are some community groups that also meet together to try and sort of reinvigorate participation levels. But I think any child going to a mainstream environment is exactly the right thing to do, despite the fact that they might be sometimes alienated because not everybody knows sign language or what have you. I think stay in mainstream, but also investigate the Deaf pathways as well. To reiterate, I think schools have got a part to play on that. I think our media have a part to play on that. But I think mainly, I think for me, for the youth it starts at school, so I think if children know that they have got options and opportunity. I think there will be more growth for Deafness, specifically, in sport.

 

Speaker: CP                        Time: 02:30:57

I think, for me, it’s having that platform. I often envisage it as a circle. If we give Deaf athletes and Deaf participants a voice, then society will listen, therefore they will get louder, society will be more aware. And it’s almost just having that circle, in a way. I think at the moment there’s a clash of people with a hearing impairment trying to speak up, getting nowhere and thinking, ‘well, what’s the point? No one’s gonna listen’. So, then you get the flipside of the mainstream going, ‘oh, yeah. I’m Deaf aware; my nan’s Deaf’, or ‘I know one person that’s Deaf’. Yeah. That’s only one. So, for example, don’t base everything off me, you know, because there's millions of people out there that have a different Deafness to me. So don’t have that assumption. 

When I thought about this question, it's having that platform but then being listened to. So it works both ways. Obviously, athletes are trying to speak up and raise awareness but they’re not being heard. And when they’re starting to get heard, they are, for example, if we look at obviously the sign language bill that’s now going through, is raising awareness. When we do Deaf Awareness Week, the amount of people that go, ‘yeah, yeah! That's really good!’. The following week: there’s nothing.

 

Speaker: RF                        Time: 02:32:22

Yeah, I mean, I think with more role models, in as much as Rosie off Strictly Come Dancing etc., on all of those aspects, raise awareness in a different way.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:32:34

Any final points you’d like to add, Chris?

 

Speaker: CP                        Time: 02:32:36

Just about funding. So, obviously, I think there’s Deaf athletes out there that are trying to raise awareness but aren’t being heard. So, for example, you’ve got Deaflympians that are trying to raise awareness for the Deaflympics. I know, for example, there’s one member that’s been speaking for over a year, you know, he’s got a very strong voice, but he’s not getting heard, he’s not getting that recognition. I think at some point he will think, ‘what’s the point?’. And that’s another voice lost. Myself, for example, you know, I can speak about Deaf awareness as much as possible but people have got to listen as well on the same side.  

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:33:18

Excellent. Thank you ever so much for taking the time to speak with me today. It’s really been great catching up with you guys and I look forward to catching up with you soon. Thank you very much. 

 

*** Discussion ends ***

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:33:29

Our final discussion explores the Accessercise app, a fitness app specifically designed for people with impairments. I caught up with Ali Jawad to learn more. 

So you've created the Accessercise app. First of all, what is it and why have you created this app? What's its purpose? 

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:33:45

So I'll give you some context behind it because I think it's important that we get some context behind it. In the first lockdown, like everyone else, I had more times on my hands. And I was training for a Paralympic Games from my living room. So, yeah, crazy. But I think what I, what I did was I was kind of reflecting on my career. At the time thinking like, you know, did I do enough? Did I reach my potential? Have I achieved everything that I wanted to? Just stuff like that, but a reflective period for me. It's weird, but I think everyone was reflecting, I think at that time. 

But the one thing that when I look back, it wasn't about the medals or what I did, it was actually why I never questioned why I was the only disabled person in a gym? At that time, I never questioned it. I never asked that question. And when I look back, I was like, why did I never ask somebody why? Is it because I was just more adaptable because I wanted to get to the Paralympic Games and I just got on with it? Or were there barriers there that I just didn't, I just didn't understand. And has that really changed in the last 17 years since, since then? Does more disabled people going to gyms and actually regularly going, and then the answer was, I don't think so. So I thought, well, why is that the case? So I went online and I thought, well, there must be a fitness app that caters for disabled people, or people with impairments, because the fitness app industry is huge. It is massive. I think there's over 70,000 health and fitness apps on the market. I was like, there's bound to be one. So I did my research one morning and I couldn't find one. Now I thought, this is shocking. Am I not looking in the right places or does it not exist? So as a disabled person, I started writing things down in terms of if there was a fitness app, what would it look like? And then within the hour I was like, oh, okay. I think I've got a fitness app here. 

So I thought, yeah, but don't be stupid. Like you've got no business or tech experience like rip it up and throw it in bin, like that's just another project when you retire or something. But then I was like, you know what, like it needs to happen. And why should I let somebody else do it? I think I can do it like I'm a disabled person, you know? Like I've got the experience. Why not? So I called my friend and now my co-founder to tell me off to see whether or not it's crazy or whether or not I'm on to something. And he was like, oh my God, let's do it.

The idea to launch it took us about a year, and last year we launched it. So Accessercise is, well, I guess it's the world's first complete fitness app, especially designed for people with disabilities and impairments.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:36:34

So you did that all whilst training for the Paralympics via your living room?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:36:38 

And studying the PhD at the same time.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:36:40

Oh yeah. Sorry, I forgot about your PhD, the whole reason we're talking! Yeah. Okay. Yeah, you obviously like having lots of things to do at the same time, but yeah. Okay. Excellent. 

You've created this really, well, world leading app, so if someone logged onto it, what do they see? What do they find in this app?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:36:59

Yeah, so we try to, kind of cater with three different features in the app. So, feature one is the exercise library. This is an impairment specific exercise video library where the user gets a catalogue of video exercises performed by somebody of their impairment. Right, so if you're a double amputee, all the videos, the demonstrator is a double amputee too.

Now, we don't give out any training programmes at all because I'm not an expert on every impairment. However, the user is an expert on their impairment. So with the video exercises, users can create their own training programmes. Right. So they give them, you empower them, you educate them, but they also take responsibility of their journeys, which I think is really important. And not relying on able bodied people to teach them what to do. 

The second feature is the social hub, where users get to share their workouts with their friends, and, you know, the friends can like, comment and motivate them. So I think a sense of community is really important. 

And the last one, and this is where my academic, science evidence-based hat comes on. I thought, well, how can I change the fitness industry itself? Like how can I, how can we drive to better policy changes down the line? So the explore section allows users to rate the accessibility of gyms and sporting facilities in their areas, which means that it's a two-way feedback. It allows users to know what facilities are, quote unquote, you know, accessible for them or the most accessible for them. But two, it allows us to know what gyms and sporting facilities are lacking, which means that actually, when it comes to analysing our fitness industry in the UK, we go actually, we've actually got actual data from actual users to drive our thinking. I think that's really important. 

So they're the three main features. Obviously, we've got other features, but they're the three where we think will make a huge difference to the app.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:39:19

Okay. Yeah, really interesting. 

And in terms of the last point, so about the accessibility and users being able to rate it, are you working with gyms to try and promote the app so that they open themselves up to being critiqued? Or are you hoping that the users themselves do that and you kind of then go to the gyms and say, look, this is what the feedback we're getting? 

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:39:38

Yeah, so that's a good question. So at the moment, because we're so new, we're relying on users. However, in the future we're absolutely gonna work with gyms to make sure that if they do have a non, you know, favourable rating, we help them make sure that they increase their rating. Remember the ratings in the app, they're not driven by me or my team. They're driven by the user.

So it's not, it's not us criticising them, it's the user themselves. And I felt that was really important. And in the app, if a facility gets more than four stars, they automatically get our logo on it. It's like a verify, it's like a verified thing unofficially. And I thought that was a good thing to do. So you separate the accessible gyms and the non-accessible gyms on the map.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:40:25

Yeah. Then you hope that some gyms who haven't got the logo strive to do it, especially if it's a local competitor, et cetera. Okay, cool. 

You probably know this already because you're a very smart man and you've done your research in this area. English Federation of Disability Sport, which is now Activity Alliance. They had something called the Inclusive Fitness Initiative. Which may not be as detailed as what you've created, but they also had the kind of mark of quality in trying to say that these are the gyms, which are inclusive. Why has that not translated to meaningful change then? 

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:40:58

You want my honest opinion? 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:40:59

I would love your honest opinion, yeah.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:41:01

Let's just say, organisations that preach about participation. I'm not gonna say who because I think we know who they are. That are government funded. That are government funded. They love consultation. They love data in terms of the statistics behind a certain problem and they commit to funding projects to say they've done something to address it without actually addressing the problem. So these organisations have the resources to do this app. Like this app should have been created years ago with the resources that some government agencies have. They've got the money to do it. They've got the know-how. They can do it. You know, for me to kind of do this myself just shows you that nobody actually wants meaningful change. It's all about ticking loads of boxes. So that's the problem. You've got organisations that have loads of money behind them talking about, you know, consultations, you know, and you know, producing data that actually don't correspond to any change at all.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:42:15

Yeah, so it's a tick-box culture. 

And I think also you probably, again, know more than me about this, but these are organisations that are run by non-disabled people primarily. So, yes, they may want to change it, but they don't have the lived experience. They don't necessarily have that. 

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:42:33

Yeah. But I think that's an excuse because I keep saying to a lot of people, how many disabled people do you know are employed in senior positions in any organisations?  

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:42:43

Well, hardly any. Presumably.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:42:45

Why?

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:42:47

Well, yeah, exactly. Probably because well, there's a lack of fairness or awareness of the opportunities that exist.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:42:55

It's because organisations think to tick a box on their accessibility and inclusion space. As an organisation they think employing disabled people, a disabled person in a low-skilled job is enough because we have to be appreciative that we've even got a job. That has to change.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:43:15

That patronising attitude that we talked about earlier.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:43:17

Massively. So I think we're getting to a point where we need to allow the disabled community to demonstrate their ability rather than giving them low-level jobs as a tick-box exercise, a lot of organisations that work with disabled people, you're right, they're all able-bodied. What do they know? Absolutely nothing. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:43:37

Yeah. And if you are able-bodied, it's also about, you know, giving the platform to individuals who have that experience and have the knowledge, and actually be humble enough to say, I dunno all the answers, I don't have all the experience or knowledge someone else might do.

It's interesting you're talking about that because, yeah, it's dreadful that in 2022, it's only now, like last year, you know, that we've had an app like this.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:44:02

And done by somebody with no tech or business experience! Some random dude!

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:44:07

Well, you're not quite some random dude, Ali, you're a very successful elite athlete.

But yeah, your point remains, you know, it's taken an individual with the drive and determination and passion to try and actually get this across the line, to get it across the line, but obviously if you had all the resources and infrastructure that some other organisations have, you'd be able to implement this even greater.

 

 Speaker: AJ                        Time: 02:44:27

There's global companies out there that could do this. They could have done it years ago. So for me it's a travesty that has taken, you know, one or two people to have an idea, thought about during lockdown, to actually do it. Like we haven't got the resources like anybody else.

So we've had to think outside the box. But I think the way we've done it has actually been a benefit to us because I am disabled. I've got the experience as a disabled person. So having that knowhow has actually probably been better for the app rather than an organisation doing it instead.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:45:03

Yeah. And what you said earlier kind of struck me when you talked about the consultation exercises that some organisations go through.

When I was doing my PhD, I had to do a freedom of information request to get information about Sport England funding for disability amongst national governing bodies. Because they said £91.5 million or whatever's gone to national governing bodies. Okay, where is it then? Where's it gone?

And yeah, it took a bit of time. And then some of the funding was basically for having the conversation. For basically trying to upskill organisations saying, let's work towards having the opportunity to be able to do it. And it wasn't actually funding for a project really. It was just about let's try and upskill you guys.

Yeah, it's crazy. 

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:45:45

No, I think it's important you upskill your staff. Absolutely.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:45:48

That shouldn’t be the end result for funding from Sport England.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:45:51

That should not be the end result that should be a part of the process.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:45:55

Yeah. And often some of the accusations from other participants was that essentially some organisations go for the easy wins in terms of the impairment categories. You know, like try and have these big mass sessions where you get maybe intellectual impairment groups so you can just say, look how what we're doing, rather than actually again, trying to make meaningful change.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:46:12

Yeah. Because the app is still in its early days, we are gonna try and cater for about 126 disabilities and impairments in the app, eventually.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:46:20

Really? I was gonna ask you. How have you made it accessible across the multiple impairments? So 126. That's a lot. How have you managed to kind of get all the exercise videos, experience, and information? That must have been a big piece of work.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:46:33

Yeah. Our biggest challenge is content, right?

So think about it. Every impairment has its own content, and that content has to start from novice all the way up to experienced. So the intensity of the exercise obviously then varies as well. So you are catering, not only are you catering for every impairment, but you're also catering for the level of that user and their journeys.

So you have to have enough, like the content will be vast per impairment eventually. So we focused on physical impairment for now. And then we're gonna branch out to more impairments down the line. So eventually we're gonna have chronic illnesses. We're gonna have, you know, things that are invisible illnesses as well.

The dream is to make it the most accessible fitness app there has ever been. That is the goal. I know it's a huge goal. I know it's crazy because it's still early days and you know, my team's only three people. But the dream is to get to that sort of level because, as an elite athlete, I've always said that like the dream is to always get to an Olympic and Paralympic games. That's what it is as an athlete and for me, I need to transfer that into, you know, business, and go, actually, what is the dream? What is the pinnacle? And the pinnacle is you make it as accessible as physically possible.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:47:39

Yeah. It's just frustrating you haven't had the resources or someone with huge amounts of resources, haven't been able to kind of add to this. You should go on Dragons Den next season!

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:47:46

No, they take too much equity.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:47:48

Yeah. That's the problem. You'll value your business at a million and say I only want five to seven per cent to give away! 

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:47:54

Yeah, exactly. They probably want 50%. But if Steven Bartlett is listening, I'll have a conversation with him. Because I think he can do good things for us

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:48:02

If only I knew Steven Bartlett, but you never know. He might be one of our listeners, who knows.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:48:07

Or Peter Jones. Because he's techy. 

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:48:09

Yeah. Yeah. Or any of the Dragons, if you've got expertise and you're listening, feel free to get in touch. But yeah, no. Okay. 

So there's obviously the challenges are in terms of time, resources, being able to get it as accessible as possible.

So for now you're working with users and you're hoping the users generate the content and then you can feed that back. How do you envisage working with organisations if possible? We've talked about how in the future you can maybe go to gyms, et cetera. How are you gonna get this message about this app out there?

What's your kind of main way of doing that?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:48:38

Yeah, so I'm gonna correct you there for a minute. So it's not users creating content for us at all.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:48:43

Sorry, I mean, in terms of the rating.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:48:45

Oh, you mean the explore section? Okay. 

So our plan is to basically partner with every single charity that represents these impairments. And become their, like, official fitness app partner to make sure that we work with them to make sure the exercises in the app are safe, are accessible, and they're doing the job that we think they should be doing for their communities. So we are asking charities that represent these impairments to contact me so we can work together.

And, because like from the start the exercises in the app I knew that obviously being an elite athlete, my knowledge is vast but at the top level. I needed some grounding what was going on on the ground. So what I did was from the very, very start of the process, I employed a disability focus group with varying impairments to go through the process with me at every stage to make sure that the app is functioning, the flow of the app is accessible enough, the videos are clear, they're concise and all the features were doing what they're supposed to. So that knowledge that I had from the focus group was very valuable for us. And I'm adding to that focus group every single time we're getting a new impairment in to make sure that we've got fresh ideas, fresh perspectives. So yeah, we've got a big focus group that's helping me do it, but I know that we can do way more. So I'm hoping that charities and organisations come forward.

And we're hoping that universities as well come forward to make sure that they do research on the app, make sure that, you know, from an evidence point of view it's doing what it's supposed to do. And actually we're open to any sort of improvements as well. So we want the app to be as evidence-based as possible.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:50:26

So, yeah, lots of work ahead. What would be kind of the main piece of work now for the next six months or so? Is it just getting the content for the videos and then refreshing the focus groups? Is that what you are envisaging?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:50:41

Yeah. The biggest thing for us is content, right? The app doesn't exist without video content. It's just how it is. Unfortunately, that video content, as you can imagine, is stupidly expensive. You've got the cost of the facility, you've got the cost of, even though, however, we managed to get, you know, Stoke Mandeville have been incredible for us. They've allowed us to film for free there in the beginning, which was great.

But you've got the, you know, camera operator, you've got the editing, you've got the voiceovers in the videos. It is a very expensive process for us. And I guess with any tech company it's gonna burn a lot of money. You know, we're not gonna be different. So yeah, for us it's all about get as much content as possible and growing the impairment groups because it's only gonna work if you cater for the majority of the community.

Yeah. So for us, we've got a long way to go still.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:51:33

And in terms of platforms, it's available on. Is it on Android, iOS, all those kind of platforms?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:51:39

Yeah, it's available on both. And you can find us on all our social media platforms too.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:51:45

For those who aren't technologically savvy, how can they still be exercising and be keeping themselves fit if they're not able to kind of, if they don't have a phone that is able to download this app, how are you going to try and help those individuals?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:51:58

Yes, I think down the line we're gonna try revamp our website where it becomes the app. So you can download stuff offline and access it later on demand, obviously, like that's the dream down the line. And it's also very important we do that cause we know that not everyone's got a phone especially if want to branch out to other nations.

So it's important that people can download it without using their phones. They can use it through a screen. And we're gonna try and make it as accessible as possible, eventually. But yeah, please be patient with us. It's been a very long process already.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:52:32

Yeah, I think listeners will be very patient based on all the work that you're currently doing.

So yeah, no, well that's really been very interesting to learn about this app. Accessercise app available via Google Play and also via iOS on Apple. So please download it. There's also the website. Would you like to say the website address?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:52:51

It's just accessercise.com.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:52:53

Cool. And to confirm, Accessercise is spelt A-C-C-E-S-S-E-R-C-I-S-E?

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:52:59

Yep.

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:53:00

Okay, Ali, it's been great chatting to you. Lots of content. Very interesting. You're a very busy man, so I really do appreciate you taking the time to speak with me. Yeah, thank you ever so much.

 

Speaker: AJ                         Time: 02:53:10

My pleasure. Thank you.

 

*** Discussion ends ***

 

Speaker: CB                        Time: 02:53:12

That’s it. That’s all we have time for. Thanks for listening to this special episode on grassroots sport: foundational principals. Stay tuned for another Disability Sport Info episode. Until then. Goodbye. 

 

END OF TRANSCRIPT

 



Introduction
Voluntary sports clubs
Coaching
Visual impairments
Physical impairments
Intellectual impairments
Deaf sport
Accessercise
End of discussion