West Midlands disabled people to have their say on physical activity

Disabled people and those with long term health conditions are getting the opportunity to tell decision makers how to improve access to physical activities, post-lockdown.

A Citizens' Network is being developed by IncludeMe WM, the initiative backed by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to support disabled people and people with long term health conditions to be physically active.

While most sports organisations actively encourage disabled people to participate, Include MeWM was developed with the aim of making access easier and gaining a better understanding of people’s needs. To date the work of Include MeWM has involved recruiting and engaging organisations to adopt an inclusive approach, but now organisers want to hear from more members of the public to include their opinions in future work.

West Midlands disabled people to have their say on physical activity

Kashmire Hawker

The Citizens’ Network is being launched in Inclusion Week (September 28-October 4) and comes as gyms and other activity facilities start to reopen following the lockdown.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, WMCA portfolio lead for wellbeing and leader of Warwickshire County Council said: “It is important that the views of disabled people and those with long term health conditions are heard.

“Covid-19 has put the spotlight on health and wellbeing and the Citizens’ Network will provide access to a wealth of views and opinions which can be used to guide decisions about physical activities”

The launch of the Citizen’s Network follows a WMCA commissioned report by Disability Rights UK (DR UK) to find out how disabled people in the West Midlands feel about access to physical activity. They gained feedback from 60 people about who told them:

• Disabled people want to receive information about physical activity through trusted channels.
• The sports sector workforce should build capacity to create inclusive opportunities for physical activity.
• Disabled people want to see an improvement in access to physical activity.
• WMCA utilises existing networks and build strong links with community organisations.

Liddie Bone, get yourself active project manager, Disability Rights UK said: “We hope this report signals the beginning of some interesting work between the west Midlands combined authority, disabled people and their communities to co-produce solutions to tackle inequalities when it comes to being active.

“The IncludeMe WM programme presents an opportunity to lead this work and support greater voice, greater opportunity and greater life outcomes for disabled people in the west Midlands.”

The Citizens’ Network will be collecting the ideas, thoughts, views and solutions of disabled people across the region and then a panel including disabled people and people who have experience of disability such as having a relative with a disability can make recommendations based on the wider network. It is planned that this panel will influence organisations, local authorities and regional boards.

Twenty-three year old Kashmire Hawker from Wolverhampton sits on the Young Combined Authority board. He is autistic and uses his experiences to help him campaign for young people and disabled people’s rights.

*Watch YouTube video of Kashmire Hawker here*

He said: “Disabled people have a huge amount to offer and I absolutely feel excited about what Include MeWM want do with this Citizens’ Network which will enable disabled people of all cultures and ages and background and cultures to come together to have their voices projected around physical activity.

“It will enable lots of people to get their voices and open up opportunity for lots of learning too. I’m sure there will be huge amount of perspective.”

Any groups, networks, forums and individuals who want to get involved and have a positive impact on access to physical activities are invited to get in touch with the organisers at https://www.wmca.org.uk/what-we-do/public-service-reform/include-me-west-midlands/citizens-network/