Inclusive Sports: Cost and Accessibility Barriers for Disabled Youth

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Disabled youth face significant cost and accessibility barriers to participate in sports, such as the high costs of specialized equipment like sports wheelchairs.
Only 24% of children with disabilities participate in sports outside of school, highlighting the need to improve access and affordability to inclusive sports.
Parents of children with disabilities have reported difficulties in finding local opportunities and poor signposting to available resources for parasports, and talent identification often happens by chance.
Inclusive sports can provide social belonging, confidence building, independence, and support identity development for disabled children, as well as social support for parents.
To address the barriers to access and affordability, youth sports programs can work with disabled youth and their parents to develop support networks and offer more opportunities for inclusive sports.

Junior basketball player Jac, who has spina bifida, has warned that disabled people are being priced out of sports due to the high costs of specialized equipment like sports wheelchairs.

As Jac and his friend Steffan, who has cerebral palsy, developed their skills in wheelchair basketball, they faced the challenge of buying new basketball wheelchairs worth £6,000 each.

Jac believes that these high costs are symbolic of a broader problem facing people with disabilities.

In order to purchase their new wheelchairs, Jac and Steffan relied on the support of their basketball coach Deb Bashford and a fundraising campaign.

Both boys feel that the new wheelchairs have significantly improved their performance in the sport.

However, only 24% of children with disabilities participate in sports outside of school, according to a survey by Disability Sports Wales.

The Importance of Social Belonging and Parental Support

Research involving 11 parents of children and young people aged 12 to 25 competing in parasports found that the children’s sense of social belonging was their biggest concern.

These parents had to look beyond schools to find social and confidence-building opportunities for their children, as well as rewarding sporting activities.

Many parents found that parasport opportunities were difficult to access and expensive. They reported a lack of local opportunities and poor signposting to available resources.

Talent identification often happened by chance, and parents felt that better signposting for disability sport opportunities was needed.

Many parents found that parasport opportunities were difficult to access and expensive. They reported a lack of local opportunities and poor signposting to available resources.

The Benefits of Inclusive Sports

Despite the challenges, parents felt that getting their child involved in parasports was one of the best things they could do for them.

Participation in parasports has helped children develop friendships, build confidence and independence, and support their identity development as disabled individuals.

Parents also benefited from the social support they received from other parents of children with disabilities, who helped them navigate complex issues related to funding and accessibility.

Improving Access to Inclusive Sports

To ensure that more disabled children can benefit from being involved in sports, the barriers to access and affordability need to be addressed.

Some sport national governing bodies are already offering excellent opportunities for young people with disabilities, such as Flyerz Hockey, where people of all ages with and without disabilities play together.

By consulting and working with young people with disabilities and their parents, youth sports programs at all levels can develop support networks that reflect the complexity of their lives.

Craig Miller

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