Skip to content

Inclusion and accessibility guidance

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic is exacerbating existing inequalities.

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

Other information from across the sector is building a picture that clearly shows some of these audiences are suffering more from the impact of the pandemic.

Of course everyone has been affected by Covid-19 and the consequences of the lockdown, but not equally.

If we can address these issues as part of the phased return of sport and physical activity, we'll start to reduce these inequalities and reduce the long term impact of the pandemic.

How this guidance can help you

Most sport and physical activity facilities can now reopen. This includes basketball and tennis courts, playing spaces like golf courses (public and private), playing fields, watersports, outdoor gyms, outdoor pools and playgrounds. Indoor facilities such as gyms, leisure centres and pools are also now allowed to reopen, provided operators follow government guidelines.

As restrictions are eased and we return to play, it's critical the people who've been impacted the most by the lockdown restrictions are supported to get active.

Organisations that can currently provide a place for people to take part in sport and physical activity, or that are preparing to reopen, can use this guidance, alongside the government's, to create accessible and inclusive environments that everyone can access.

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

Who can return to getting active?

Everyone’s circumstances and level of risk will be different.

Specific guidance continues to apply to people who may be more vulnerable to Covid-19, and on who should and shouldn’t be leaving their home to take part in sport and physical activity.

These broadly fall into four groups, each of these groups will include children and young people, as well as adults.

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 an inclusive and accessible return to sport and physical activity:

  • People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities
  • Lower socio-economic groups
  • People who are LGBT+
  • People living with health conditions
  • Disabled people
  • Women.
  • People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities

    It's well documented that people from BAME communities are being disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 through exposure to the virus, having higher mortality rates and likely to have suffered a loss of income.

    Any planning for the 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 Covid-19 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.

    Read less
  • Lower socio-economic groups

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

    They're likely to experience a huge change in normal routines, having to balance a changing household along with home-schooling for those with children at home.  

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

    Cost and accessibility are key considerations, as is the possibility of digital exclusion and limited or no access to additional laptops/tablets to enable a family to benefit from digital offers.

    Read less
  • 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.

  • People living with health conditions

    People taking part in our research have told us they're feeling worried, vulnerable and confused as government guidance changes. Some are 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 at this crucial time.

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

    Read less
  • Disabled people

    Disabled people have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, 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.

    Read less
  • 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.

Supporting your workforce and participants

As we plan for sport and physical activity to continue its return, there will be additional support that your workforce and people taking part will 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 Covid-19.

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

We’re also seeing that many people are currently struggling to become or stay active, and hearing from them that they feel coming out of lockdown will make it harder to be active, and that they're more concerned about being active when the social distancing measures are, in some circumstances, reduced below 2m. 

Reopening facilities - as and when permitted by the government - will provide additional opportunities to get active, but that might not be enough right now to overcome the barriers that people face.

In the coming weeks, we'll identify additional external resources (as they're created) to help you to support people to return to physical activity.

Activity Alliance and Mind have both published guidance that set 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.

A woman hitting a punching bag.

Inclusive communication

Taking an inclusive approach to your communications will help 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

The government has guidance on how to manage users of sport and leisure facilities that can open: these facilities include playing fields, basketball and tennis courts, golf courses, playgrounds, outdoor and indoor pools, outdoor and indoor gyms and leisure facilities.

The steps you take at these facilities, and at facilities that you're preparing to reopen, should not have an unjustifiable negative impact on some groups compared to others.

Any alterations made to facilities, services and operations as a result of Covid-19 should not 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 that you provide pre-visit information that encourages people to return to activity. This needs to provide clarity on what is 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

There are a significant number of people who are unable to return to play and access facilities and activity. If you've developed a digital offer, its continuation will benefit customers who cannot return to your facility or activity and help keep them active so that they're able to return to you when they feel able/are permitted 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 (where permitted and safe to do so) would be beneficial. For example, you could point them to opportunities to get active at Join the Movement or We Are Undefeatable
 
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.
  • The legal bit

    This guidance note is provided for general information only. Sport England is not your adviser and any reliance you may place on this guidance is at your own risk. Neither Sport England, nor any contributor to the content of this guidance, shall be responsible for any loss or damage of any kind, which may arise from your use of or reliance on this guidance note.

    Care has been taken over the accuracy of the content of this guidance note but Sport England cannot guarantee that the information is up to date or reflects all relevant legal requirements.

    Sport England makes no claim or representation regarding, and accepts no responsibility for, the quality, content, nature, reliability or safety of third-party websites or services accessible by hyperlink (“Link”) in this guidance note.

    Such linked websites are not under Sport England’s control. Sport England is not responsible for the content of any such linked websites and/or any link contained in a linked website, or any review, changes or updates to such websites.

    Sport England provides these Links to you only as a convenience and/or for educational purposes, and the inclusion of any Link does not imply any affiliation, endorsement, or adoption by Sport England of the website or any information contained in it.

    The information contained in this guidance note is not organisation specific and therefore may not be suitable for your organisation or club.

    We recommend that you obtain professional specialist technical and legal advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of information contained in this guidance note.

    Read less

Sign up to our newsletter

You can find out exactly how we'll look after your personal data, but rest assured we’ll only use it to make sure you receive our newsletter, to understand how you interact with our newsletter, and to provide administrative information about our newsletter.