Inclusion is a culture, not a programme. When it comes to how young people access leisure activities, an inclusive culture should ensure that all young people are able to participate and socialise alongside one another regardless of their ability. Sadly this is rarely the case.
A recent survey carried out by Scope, a UK disability charityin conjunction with social networking website Mumsnet, revealed that in fact many families with disabled children do not feel their local leisure activities are inclusive. A staggering six out of ten parents of disabled children have been unable to access youth clubs, play groups or other local activities because they are disabled.
With parents now calling for leisure services staff and other families using these activities, to have a better understanding of disabilities and a more positive attitude, it is evident there needs to be a culture change when it comes to inclusive activities for young people.
So how do we begin to instigate this culture change in how local groups and centres are planned and run, so that they are open to all children and families?
One way is to tackle the issue head on and offer more inclusive activities for more disabled young people. There is a strong motivation within each of our Youth Zones in Manchester, Oldham, Bolton, Wigan, Blackburn and Carlisle that disabled young people have the same rights to access youth facilities as any able bodied young person, and are committed to ensuring this is a focus for their service provision.
One parent of a child that attends the Bolton Lads and Girls Club, part of the OnSide Youth Zone Network, commented via twitter in response to Scope’s recent survey: “That’s exactly why I take my son to @BLGCofficial – he doesn’t have a disability but plays with others that do. I hope that socialising in an inclusive setting will help him to see the person and not the disability.”
While our Youth Zones all provide an inclusive offer, we have recognised there is more we can do to support more local disabled young people and their families. With the support of Big Lottery and the Seashell Trust, a charity specialising in the needs of children and young people with the most complex communication difficulties, we have launched a new partnership project; A Level Playing Field to do just this.
A Level Playing Field is a unique project that aims to engage 1,200 young disabled people across our six open Youth Zones to deliver regular inclusive sports and creative activities alongside their non-disabled peers. This project will develop the youth offer in each Youth Zone to deliver an enhanced level of provision that meets the needs of disabled young people and promotes inclusivity for all.
A proactive approach must be taken across the country if we are to make leisure activities more inclusive and accessible for all young people. It is our hope that, as our Youth Zones reach more young disabled people and their families, we can help to dispel any negativity and offer a long term solution to inclusive leisure activities.
If you would like more information about how A Level Playing Field is being implemented within Youth Zones or advice on inclusive activities, please contact Stephen Pearson at 01204 362128 or email at email@example.com