Leading Paralympian says lockdown needs of disabled people ignored

Disability, Health, Society /
  • Physical activity has fallen among vulnerable groups
  • Sophie Carrigill: ‘I know we are surrounded by inequality’

Paul MacInnes @PaulMac
Thu 28 Jan 2021 08.00 GMT

The fitness industry and online influencers are ignoring the needs of disabled people during lockdown, according to one leading Paralympian who says the lack of visibility for one of the most vulnerable groups in society “blows my mind”.

Sophie Carrigill, a star of the Team GB women’s wheelchair basketball team who are ranked second in the world ahead of this year’s Paralympic Games, has called for more to be done to help disabled people benefit from physical activity during the pandemic.

Her remarks come as physical activity among disabled people has been shown to fall away sharply during the pandemic with only 23% able to exercise for 30 minutes five times a week last autumn due to lockdown restrictions. “As an athlete I know how to adapt workouts or do my own. I’m very lucky,” Carrigill said. “If I wasn’t an athlete the only option would be to go out for a push, go out of my front door, and that’s not possible for everyone.

“I know we are surrounded by inequality. And [that includes] access for your average disabled person to fitness resources online. The fitness industry blows my mind in how unequal it is. It’s all on social media and you don’t see a single person doing an accessible workout. You see all these Instagram bloggers who are doing workouts for the able-bodied population. We’ve got ways to go.”

With activity a key tool in combating not only the physical but mental effects of lockdown Carrigill said disabled people needed their own equivalent of Joe Wicks classes. “You saw Joe Wicks every morning supporting the kids at school,” she said. “It was brilliant, fantastic – exactly what was needed. But where was his thought around the disabled child in that class?

“I think it is important that they are represented. Disabled people are not represented as well as they should be in the media and that’s where inequality stems from. You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Carrigill was speaking in the wake of the publication of Sport England’s 10-year strategic plan, Uniting the Movement, which takes as a guiding observation: “People with the most to gain from being active have been the least able to take part.”

As part of the strategy, Wheelchair Basketball is to receive funding to support 800 ‘activators’ to help bring an extra 8,000 people into the sport over the next four years.

“The ambition within the Sport England 10-year strategy is about resetting the inequality that’s been there in my entire life”, said Lisa Pearce, the chief executive of British Wheelchair Basketball. “This is about creating an opportunity for everyone in their community.”

SOURCE: theguardian.com
MAIN IMAGE SOURCE: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images