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Martin Streharsky taking part in the International Boccia Sports at Robin Park Areana, Wigan

ALMOST one in two disabled people say that they don’t take part in sport because of lack of facilities and opportunities.

Gyms, leisure centres and other sports facility providers in the UK are failing to provide activities that many disabled people feel they can participate in, a new poll conducted by Leonard Cheshire Disability and ComRes has found.

Over half (57%) of the disabled people surveyed in the charity’s pre-Paralympic Games investigation said they had not taken part in any moderate intensity physical activity in the last seven days – compared with just 24% of non-disabled adults.

A lack of exercise provision suitable for disabled people was the main barrier for disabled people, with inaccessible facilities (26%) and fear of injury (21%) also named.

Clare Pelham, chief executive of Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: “At the start of this Paralympic Year, let’s put this right.

“Every January millions of us resolve to get fit. And by February, we are flagging. Imagine how much harder it would be to keep your new year’s resolution if, when you arrive at the gym, none of the equipment is suitable for you – because of your disability.

“Not only will you be less fit, but you will be excluded from a fun activity with your friends.”

Ben Rushgrove, London 2012 Paralympic medallist, said: “Sport is a powerful tool and when used properly it can change people’s lives, giving them friends, confidence, and empowerment to improve their lives beyond sport.

“From what I have seen and heard Leonard Cheshire Disability and charities like them work hard to create sporting opportunities. With another Paralympic games just around the corner comes another opportunity to inspire, motivate and invest in all sport for everyone.”

Ann Birtwistle, a sports officer at Leonard Cheshire, said: “The findings mirror what those we support in our homes have been telling us for years.

“Without the provision of equipment for inclusive sports such as boccia (a bowls-type game played by people with all physical conditions), or the investment in disability-trained support staff, exercise and sport are often considered ‘out of reach’ by those with severe disabilities.

“We would like to see more consultation with organisations such as Leonard Cheshire Disability, to ensure providers meet the standards necessary for disabled people to have confidence in participation.”

www.leonardcheshire.org