Sport and disability

The number of disabled people who take part in sport has risen significantly, but barriers remain

Weekly participation in sport among people over 16 years old with a long-term limiting illness, disability or infirmity is at 16.8%. That’s around half of the general population level. 

However, the picture varies depending on the type of disability. Analysis carried out in 2012 on Active People Survey data (APS 6 Q2 results) showed that people with sensory impairments have a much lower participation rate, at just 13.4%.

Research carried out in 2000/01 into barriers to participation (documents below) for disabled people found health limitations (74%) were the main barrier for disabled adults, while disabled young people mentioned lack of money and the unsuitability of sports facilities in addition to health (all 37%).


The Sportivate initiative has examples of sports projects which have successfully targeted young disabled people. Critical success factors included:

  • Consulting with the target group beforehand
  • Being realistic about engagement and retention targets – working with target groups often comes at a higher cost per head
  • Overcoming the obvious barriers, including transport
  • Finding funds for specialist equipment, or finding project partners that can provide it
  • Using coaches with experience of working with disabled people.

Inclusive Sport

The Inclusive Sport programme is designed to increase the number of disabled young people (aged 14+) and adults regularly playing sport as part of Sport England’s wider commitment to increasing regular sport participation by disabled people.

On 7 September 2013, a year on since the London 2012 Paralympic Games, we announced a further £8 million of National Lottery funding aimed at giving disabled people across the country more opportunities to get into sport.

Find out more about this initiative here.

Getting Active Outdoors

Key highlights from the disability data cuts taken from our outdoors survey responses can be found on our outdoor pages.