Making sport and physical activity more accessible to people with disabilities

More than 300 people with physical and learning disabilities will take part in the second Accessible Community Games at the Walsall campus of the University of Wolverhampton on Friday, (October 18).

They are the brainchild of Community Games host Dennis Kennedy, who was inspired to create more inclusive opportunities for disabled people after signing the Include Me West Midlands pledge.

Include Me WM, which uses the Activity Alliance Talk to Me principles to support organisations to engage better with disabled people to listen to their views by placing them at the heart of the conversation, has been developed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).

Making sport and physical activity more accessible to people with disabilities

Warley Boxing Club coach Richard Heritage instructs Wendy Hurst, who is now an England Boxing Level 1 coach, at the first Accessible Games.

Mr Kennedy, founder of Inspire Activity, has been running Community Games around the region since 2012 and launched the first Accessible Games in Sutton Coldfield in April, at the time he became one of the first to sign up to Include Me.

He said: “I had been trying to make the Community Games more inclusive, but it was the Talk to Me principles that encouraged me to increase the number of Accessible Games to four next year and to run more inclusive activities in the Community Games.”

Mr Kennedy added that WMCA Include Me manager Mark Fosbrook had also been an “inspirational influence” in supporting him to grow the games.

Friday’s games are supported by Active Black Country, which has also recently signed up to Include Me, and has helped encourage a variety of sporting providers to take part, giving participants the chance to try out 20 activities, including archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, dance, aikido, boxing, hockey, cricket, table tennis, inclusive football, orienteering and badminton.

Dan Allen, local partnership lead officer – communities, from Active Black Country, said: “We believe all people should have the right to be physically active and are working with partners to better understand and engage current under-represented groups in sport and physical activity.

“This is further reflected in our alignment and commitment to the Include Me pledge, which is providing more opportunities for engagement, training and learning relating to disability/adaptive needs across the Black Country.  We are delighted to help bring an engagement day in the form of the Accessibility Games to the Black Country.

“Our research informs us that there is simply not enough visible disability provision but an engagement day such as this will go a long way in raising awareness and connecting people to opportunities.”

Student volunteers from the University of Wolverhampton’s WLV Sport – which is also signed up to Include Me – will help with the games and Dr Richard Medcalf, the university’s director of the Institute of Sport and Human Sciences, has agreed to chair the new advisory board of Include Me.

He said: “It gives me great pleasure to chair this board and to be part of the vision of the WMCA to enable disabled people inclusive access to sport and physical activity by working to remove a host of barriers leading to more active lives.

“As the University of Opportunity, we are committed to providing opportunities for all to participate and enjoy a range of sporting activities.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, portfolio holder for wellbeing and Warwickshire County Council leader, added: “I’m delighted how Include Me has taken off since its launch in the spring. With more than 30 organisations already signed up, it really has captured hearts and minds, with events like the Accessible Games demonstrating the difference it can make. To have such a senior academic and someone as passionate as Dr Medcalf agree to chair the advisory board, is the icing on the cake.”