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Inclusion and accessibility guidance

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic exacerbated existing inequalities.

Research we commissioned Savanta ComRes to conduct showed the widening gaps in activity levels across audiences that were already under-represented in sport and physical activity.

Other information from across the sector also built a picture that clearly showed some of these audiences suffered more from the impact of the pandemic.

Of course everyone has been affected by coronavirus and the consequences of the lockdown, but not equally.

We've tried to help people address these issues as part of the return of sport and physical activity, hoping to reduce these inequalities and reduce the long term impact of the pandemic.

Current guidance

As of 1 April, we're in the government's 'Living with respiratory infections, including Covid-19' phase of their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

This means there are now no coronavirus-related legal restrictions in place.

All forms of activity can take place with no coronavirus-related restrictions on how many people can participate, and all sports facilities can open.

Organisations that hope to be able to provide a place for people to take part in sport and physical activity now restrictions have been lifted, can use the guidance on this page, alongside the government's, to create accessible and inclusive environments that everyone can access.

Read the government's guidance

A woman throwing a ball while playing softball in a playing field.

Guidance for specific audiences

We know many organisations are looking for audience-specific guidance, so we've compiled expertise below on the following groups of people to support a continuing inclusive and accessible return to sport and physical activity:

  • People from Black, Asian and ethnically diverse communities
  • Lower socio-economic groups
  • People who are LGBT+
  • People living with health conditions
  • Disabled people
  • Women
  • People experiencing mental health problems.
  • People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

    It's well documented that people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic -communities were disproportionately impacted by coronavirus through exposure to the virus, having higher mortality rates and likely to have suffered a loss of income.

    Any planning for the continued return to sport and physical activity should consider and make provision for:

    • The key characteristics of different groups and their associate risk factors
    • The location of provision
    • The economic capacity for those on limited incomes.

    Additional and in-depth research into the disproportionate impact on different ethnic groups can be found in the report produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies: Are some ethnic groups more vulnerable to coronavirus than others? See specifically the key findings on pages 3-6.

    Sporting Equals and the Inter Faith Network also have resources and expertise that you can access.

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  • Lower socio-economic groups

    People and families within this group were likely to be affected financially because of furlough and loss of employment, with a potential need to access food banks as a result.

    They were likely to be experiencing huge changes in normal routines, having to balance a changing household due to changes in work situations, or schools reopening for those with childcare requirements.

    The use of outdoor space was therefore invaluable, as some families will have been trapped in overcrowded accommodation with limited access to open spaces.

    Cost and accessibility are key considerations, and delivery should, in general, be kept as local as possible to avoid the need to spend on travel.

    Digital exclusion is also more likely, with limited or no access to additional laptops/tablets to enable a family to benefit from digital offers.

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  • People who are LGBT+

    Pride Sports, Gendered Intelligence, and the Child Protection in Sport Unit all have useful resources to improve access to sport for LGBT+ people.

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  • People living with health conditions

    People taking part in our research told us they were feeling worried, vulnerable and confused as government guidance changed. Some were struggling to find motivation and adapt their activity habits.

    Understanding and sharing this insight helps us all provide the best support we can to encourage the many people living with health conditions to be active.

    For more details, see the We Are Undefeatable Covid-19 Insight Pack.

    Please continue to promote the We Are Undefeatable campaign website as a resource to inspire and support people with health conditions to be active.

    In addition, the website’s Supporters Hub contains a large amount of information, advice and guidance to help partners bring the campaign to life in their organisation or place.

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  • Disabled people

    Disabled people were disproportionately affected by coronavirus, with specific impairment groups advised to shield from the beginning of the restrictions being imposed.

    Activity Alliance has a number of resources you can access, including a guide on reopening activity in an inclusive way. There's also legal guidance around disability.

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  • Women

    Women in Sport has a number of resources that you can access. The 'Go Where Women Are' resource has support on engaging women in sport and exercise on their terms and in their space, whether physically or emotionally.

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  • People experiencing mental health problems

    Mind has created a Mental Health and Physical Activity Toolkit that aims to increase the number of sport, physical activity and mental health providers who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to support and engage people experiencing mental health problems in physical activity.

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Supporting your workforce and participants

As sport and physical activity returned, there's additional support that your workforce and people taking part need, to ensure an inclusive and accessible return to play. 

There's a need for a greater understanding of mental health issues within the workforce, particularly when working with people whose mental health may have been more affected by coronavirus.

This could include people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, people who are LGBT+, those who are recovering from the virus, and people who were previously shielding, or who've found this period particularly difficult. Free mental health awareness training for the workforce is available from Mind, through UK Coaching.

We also saw many people struggled to become or stay active during periods of restrictions, and heard from them that they felt coming out of lockdown would make it harder to be active, and that they were more concerned about being active now social distancing is no longer mandatory.

Reopening facilities has provided additional opportunities to get active, but that might not be enough right now to overcome the barriers people face.

Activity Alliance and Mind have both published guidance setting out considerations for how you can support and reassure your workforce, and those taking part, to help reduce anxieties about returning to your facilities and activities. They include tips on your communications, training and policies to help ensure that everyone has a safe, welcoming and inclusive environment to get active in.

CIMPSA has published further information on indoor training and group exercise in England, that includes guidance on supporting disabled people to be active where they may require physical support.

UK Coaching's resource also provides a detailed and timely look at what great coaching looks like through the eyes of the participant and how they're feeling, highlighting the importance of understanding and responding to a person's motivations, needs and anxieties to enhance their experience.

Club Matters have a range of resources to support clubs and organisations consider the ways they can reopen, including reopening toolkits, understanding people and their mental wellbeing and considering effective communications. There are also a range of case studies which explore creating inclusive and safe environments.

The UK Coaching Duty to Care Toolkit will equip coaches with knowledge and skills around inclusion, diversity, mental health, wellbeing and safeguarding to provide great experiences to others, as well as support to begin to better look after themselves. Duty to Care is our collective responsibility to put the safety, wellbeing and welfare of all those involved in sport and physical activity at the heart of the individual’s experience.

A woman hitting a punching bag.

Inclusive communication

Taking an inclusive approach to your communications helps you to reach a wider audience. Read guidance around inclusive marketing and communications approaches.

British Blind Sport, Metro Blind Sport, RNIB, and Visionary have worked together to produce resources to support blind and partially sighted people return to play. The resources outline what a positive experience for participants might include.

There's a limited provision from those who deliver sport and physical activity of accessible communication methods that deaf people can access while trying to get active. UK Deaf Sport can provide guidance and support for you on how to make your activities inclusive for deaf people. They can also provide guidance on how to remove the communication barriers that the use of face masks will cause for deaf people. 

You should also consider what you need to put in place to support people for whom English is their second language.

Accessible facilities

If you've taken steps to make people feel safe when reopening your facilities, these steps shouldn't have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others.

Any alterations made to facilities, services and operations as a result of coronavirus shouldn't create new barriers for users, such as removal of accessible facilities (toilets, changing facilities, car parking spaces) or the creation of inaccessible circulation routes, as and when these facilities are permitted to reopen.

Consideration should be given to providing specific times where people who have additional needs are able to take part in activity in a safe, inclusive, and accessible environment.

It's important you provide pre-visit information that encourages people to return to activity.

This needs to provide clarity on what's on offer, how the facility or provision may have changed, and what people can expect when they arrive.

A video showing how the facility and activity looks as we return to play would be helpful.

You should also consider an advanced booking system that can be accessed digitally and offline.

Digital and non-digital offers

If you've developed a digital offer, its continuation benefits customers who don't wish to return to your facility or activity and help keep them active, so that they're able to return to you when they wish to do so.

If you don't have a digital offer, encouraging other suitable opportunities for your customers to stay active at home and outdoors would be beneficial. For example, you could point them to opportunities to get active at Join the Movement or We Are UndefeatableParasport’s Inclusive Home Workout zone will also help people get active whenever it suits them.
There are also a number of non-digital offers to help support those who are self-isolating, older adults and those with health conditions to get active at home. These include:

  • Public Health England and Sport England ‘National Active at Home booklet’ to help older adults get physically active
  • We Are Undefeatable leaflet focusing on support and ideas on how to be active safely at the moment for people of all ages with a health condition.

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