Our Chief Executive, Janet Sullivan, has blogged about the theme for this year’s Learning Disability Week, which is Sport and Inclusivity. She writes about why it is so important to make sport and physical activities inclusive for all, how we are doing this, and some advice for other organisations looking to make their activities more inclusive for people with learning disabilities.

A Royal Mencap Society (Mencap) survey of people with a learning disability between the ages of 18 and 35, found that 49% would like to spend more time outside of their home. It also found that 18% feel alone and cut off from other people.

That’s why the theme of Learning Disability Week this year is Sports and Inclusion.

Most of us will recognise how much better we feel when we spend time with other people, doing sport or other physical activities. We want people with a learning disability to have the same opportunities as everyone else; to feel active, connected and included citizens of Sheffield.

There are so many benefits of sport and physical activity which we need to raise awareness of during Learning Disability Week and beyond.

  • Sport and physical activity reduces loneliness and isolation
  • It benefits people of all abilities including improved health and wellbeing, empowerment and greater social inclusion
  • Sport and physical activity between people of all abilities can also help to improve attitudes and challenge negative views towards people with a learning disability.

For many years now we have offered sports and physical activity and we have a very full schedule of opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism. This includes two football teams (the Sheffield Mencap Lions and Lionesses), cricket, snooker, bowling, boccia and a weekly ‘Fitness Fanatics’ group.

Our football teams compete against other local teams and from further afield and are coached by an FA qualified coach. The Lions are part of the Sheffield Hallamshire Ability Counts League and the Lionesses recently competed in a tournament at St George’s Park against other teams from around the UK, to mark the start of the women’s football World Cup.

Sport provides amazing opportunities to meet new people and travel to new places, it builds confidence and has countless benefits to people’s health, both physical and mental, and wellbeing.

We need more sports clubs and organisations in Sheffield to become inclusive to people with learning disabilities. Based on our own experiences, here are some tips as to how you can make it work:

  • Offering short, sharp and regular sessions so that people can build it into their routines
  • Affordable sessions
  • Make publicity accessible using Easy read when possible
  • Offer transport options
  • Have the right support available during the sessions, whether this be staff or volunteers.

I appreciate that many of these things are a lot easier said than done. We have supported people with learning disabilities of all ages for more than 65 years and we are very happy to offer some help and advice on how you can become inclusive.

Just get in touch with us on email or call us on 0114 276 7757.