‘Inclusive’ is the buzz word within the sports sector at the moment.
With the national Sports Councils moving away from ‘participation’ to focussing on the multitude of ways in which sport can have a positive impact on people’s lives, ensuring your club or organisation is inclusive, accessible and welcoming for all is becoming increasingly important.
Inclusivity covers a wide range of things, but in this blog, I’m focussing on disability inclusion.
I am deaf and grew up playing for my local football team. I never felt excluded, or a lesser member of the team just because I was deaf. It was a fantastic experience and it gave me a great deal of confidence and happy memories. Later I played for Fulham Deaf FC, a team of exclusively deaf footballers playing in South London leagues. Here is a different kind of inclusiveness – a disability specific team operating as part of a larger entity. There was a great deal of belonging and pride amongst the players at being part of the club.
Below are a few top tips for clubs and organisations looking to go the extra mile and become a first class inclusive organisation.
Make your organisation accessible to all
There are many ways to make a club accessible that go beyond putting a ramp at the entrance and adding a disabled toilet.
• Training your staff and volunteers how to best communicate
• Ensuring all the right equipment is in place to make sports sessions accessible
• Creating an accessible website and ensuring people can actually reach the sessions you provide for them (getting to and from places is a huge issue for a lot of disabled people)
There are plenty of organisations , both local and national, that can help provide advice on how to make your organisation more accessible:
are good places to start
Make your activities inclusive
Put simply, this means making your existing ‘mainstream’ activities as accessible as possible, so those with a disability can participate with their peers without hindrance. A great example of this is the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Me2 project. This nationwide scheme enables a wide variety of sports groups to become more accessible for deaf children and young people, In most cases, this will be about adapting your communication skills. This can sound daunting, but sometimes a few simple adjustments can be made and it can also be incredibly rewarding.
Another example is Fitness In Mind, an award-winning programme that delivers sports and fitness activities from the Brentwood Centre in Essex designed primarily for those with mental ill health. Peer Support Workers provide support for those who attend sessions who may, understandably, feel wary about attending activities, helping attendees feel at ease and provide non-judgemental support. FIM also provide training and advice to local clubs and groups who are keen to welcome participants on the programme to take part in their club activities as a pathway once these individuals have gained confidence to try something else.
Work in Partnership
You may want to expand the offer for disabled people at your club, but you don’t necessarily have the expertise or knowledge to do it all yourself. This is why working in partnership with organisations is vital. Local charities, community groups or special schools, for example, can not only advise on how to make your organisation more accessible and welcoming, but could also advertise and endorse your activities to their service users or participants. This gives you the ability to work together to create an activity that is suitable and appropriate for those you wish to engage.
Do your research
It is no good creating an activity if your target audience doesn’t exist in large enough numbers in your local community.
• Do market research – contact local groups to find out where there is a need for sporting activities and what demographics to target.
• Contact those individuals and ask them what they would like to do and how to best deliver it
• Look at some successful existing projects to get inspiration and see how they do things. Here are some examples:
Go for it
There isn’t a better time for sports clubs to become more inclusive. If your organisation would like to become more accessible and open their doors to all, then go for it. It will be hard work, but the rewards will be many and you can make an immeasurable difference to individuals in your community.
Feel free to let us know how you plan to make your organisation inclusive in the comment section below.