Psychological barriers main hurdle to disabled people’s participation


English Federation of Disability Sport releases a report which gives greater insight into disabled people and their perceptions on sport

Today English Federation of Disability Sport releases a report which gives greater insight into disabled people and their perceptions on sport. This is in reaction to worrying figures identified by numerous surveys, including the DCMS Taking Part survey and Sport England’s Active People Survey, that the majority of disabled people state their health or disability prevents them from participating.

The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), the national sports body for disabled people in sport, believed this needed further investigation into disabled people’s perceptions of sport, rather than make assumptions about why they believe their health and disability are the main participation barriers.

As a result, EFDS has spent the last three months conducting qualitative market research to gain a greater understanding of the barriers to taking part among disabled people and the extent to which these are similar or different across people with different impairments.

The focus group research showed the numerous barriers identified can be categorised into three main areas:
•    Physical barriers- adaptations or changes needed to support participation are not available or have not been implemented
•    Logistical barriers- adaptations have been made but have not been implemented effectively
•    Psychological barriers- attitudes, opinions and perceptions preventing participation in sport

The research made it clear that the psychological barriers are the most influential- impacting on both disabled people’s personal impression of sport, and non-disabled people’s attitudes towards disabled people’s ability to play sport. These perceptions result in a lack of awareness and opportunities for disabled people. In addition, a lack of confidence and self belief prevent disabled people from trying sport or physical activity, while non-disabled people feel uncomfortable supporting disabled people to take part.

Commenting on the in-depth research, EFDS’s Chief Executive Barry Horne said, “This research is especially important given the low participation of disabled people in sport. We hope the findings of our report are used to plan and engage disabled people with all impairments in opportunities, which are more focused on their needs. Whether physical or psychological, barriers in the sporting environment continue to be preventing disabled people enjoying activity at every level”.

The report provides insight into the barriers’ impact as well as recommending ways in which they may be overcome. You can obtain the full report from Emma Spring, Research and Insight Manager at EFDS by emailing

Read the reports here

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