Who says? A campaign to break negativity

Active Cornwall supports national campaign to challenge negative attitudes towards disabled children and young people


A campaign by national charity Activity Alliance is being supported by Active Cornwall to draw attention to negative perceptions that can impact disabled children and young people’s opportunities to be active

 ‘Who says?’ highlights research suggesting there is significant work to do for it to be a level playing field for disabled children and young people in sport and activity.  

The charity wants disabled children and young people to have the same opportunities to be active as their non-disabled peers.

Only a quarter (25 per cent) of disabled children say they take part in sport and activity all of the time at school. This is compared to 41 per cent of non-disabled children.

Who says? focuses on four perceptions about disabled children and young people. The perceptions arise from the charity’s research – My Active Future report:

  1. Young disabled people should sit out of PE lessons
  2. Disabled people can’t be leaders
  3. Disabled children can’t grow up to be active adults
  4. Families can’t be active together

Tim Marrion, Children and Young People Lead at Active Cornwall commented: ‘It’s great to see the Activity Alliance launch this campaign which is so relevant for the work we are doing at Active Cornwall to tackle those inequalities we have in activity levels in children and young people.

“Challenging perceptions and breaking down barriers are so important to the work we do and that’s why we are working continuously to ensure our Time2Move Holiday Programme and School Games delivery are fully inclusive engaging partners like the Cornwall Accessible Activities Programme and Parent Carers Cornwall as every child deserves the right to be active, how and where they wish to be.”

Image: Activity Alliance

The campaign is brought to life through four short films. Who says? provides straight-talking and upbeat insight from a mixture of disabled and non-disabled children and adults on what the perceptions mean to them.

Disabled people of all ages have countless personal experiences that lead to marginalisation, low confidence, and inactivity. Who says? empowers people of all ages, on and off the field of play, to challenge their own and others’ perceptions.

Kirsty Clarke, Director of Innovation and Business Development for Activity Alliance, said:

“We’re delighted to launch this year’s campaign after two years in a pandemic affecting disabled children and adults the most. Changing attitudes is core to achieving our vision – fairness for disabled people in sport and activity. Who says? raises awareness of negative perceptions that are ingrained in our society. If we want a nation in the future that is inclusive and active, we need to address our own and others’ views.

Everyone deserves the right to be active, how and where they wish to be. The positive messages in our campaign are authentic and give a taste of how negativity is affecting real people. We need more people to join us as we build a movement that pushes for change and fairness.” 

My Active Future research key statistics:

  • Disabled children’s activity levels decrease significantly, as they get older.
  • Activity levels for disabled and non-disabled children are similar when they first start school (Key Stage 1 83% during term-time compared to 84%). By age 11, disabled children are less likely to be ‘active or fairly active’ (Key Stage 2 – 77% vs 85%). The gap widens more significantly by the time they are 16 (Key Stage 4 – 52% vs 72%).
  • Disabled children are twice as likely to be lonely compared to their non-disabled peers (72% vs 36%). They are more likely to feel they have no one to talk to, feel left out, and to feel alone.
  • Disabled children are motivated to take part in sport and physical activity to feel a sense of belonging and be more independent.
  • Nine in ten parents of disabled children say their child’s level of physical activity is important to them. Yet, less than half of parents with disabled children feel they have enough support to help their child to be active.
  • Only a quarter (25%) of disabled children say they take part in sport and activity all of the time at school, compared to 41% of non-disabled children.
  • Disabled children are less likely than non-disabled children are to be active at a park, leisure centre or friend’s house.
  • Worrying about getting hurt, how they look and not knowing what to do stops many disabled children being active.

Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines for disabled children and disabled young people recommend:

  • Disabled children and young people undertake 120 to 180 minutes of aerobic physical activity per week at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity. This can be achieved in different ways (e.g. 20 minutes per day or 40 minutes 3 times per week). For example, walking or cycling.
  • Complete challenging, but manageable, strength and balance activities 3 times per week which are particularly beneficial for muscle strength and motor skills. For example, indoor wall climbing, yoga, and modified sports such as basketball or football.
  • When first starting to exercise, build up slowly to avoid injury
  • Break down their exercise into bite size chunks of physical activity throughout the day to make it more manageable

Read more on the CMO physical activity guidelines for disabled children and young people.  

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