Paralympic champion and amputee Jonnie Peacock was the first disabled person to participate in dance show Strictly Come Dancing. Jonnie said of his appearance on the show: “I want to show everyone that there is ability in disability.” And on his departure in week 9, added: “It’s been an absolute honour to be the first disabled person (on the show) and I want to thank each and every one of you for judging me as an equal. That’s what I want.” This International Day of People with Disability, we look at some of the biggest myths that exist about disability in fitness.
A disability can be many things. Organisers of the International Day of People with Disability on the 3rd December say that it’s a barrier that exists for some people because their bodies and minds work differently. There are over 13 million disabled people in the UK, that’s around 1 in 5, and as well as mobility or physical disability there are many other types of disability including breathing, speech, vision or hearing disability, long-term pain or cognitive disorders. Yet fitness and its many benefits are for everyone.
Only 17% of disabled people were actually born with their disabilities whilst the rest will acquire their disability later in life. Disability can come from an acute health condition like a stroke, be the result of a progressive chronic illness like arthritis, or derive from an accident. Learning to live with a disability can mean reassessing life on every level, and this includes confidence to engage in fitness activities. Building up healthy activity in a way that works for your disability can greatly increase confidence and self-esteem.
One of the biggest myths about disability is that disability automatically equals illness. But having a disability doesn’t mean that you aren’t or can’t be healthy. One of the main aims of the UN sanctioned International Day of People with Disability is to raise public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability. Quashing those misconceptions around health and disability paves the way for more disabled people to access fitness services, and reap the benefits that it offers like improvement in physical and psychological health.
Since the London Paralympic Games in 2012 when Great Britain scooped 34 gold medals, 43 silver and 43 bronze, attitudes towards disability have changed with 70% of Brits admitting the Games went some way to changing how they viewed disability. And this is having an impact upon the desire of disabled people to want to play sport with 315,000 more disabled people now playing sport regularly than in 2005. This is a huge improvement, yet Sport England say that a disabled person is still half as likely to play sport as a non-disabled person. With huge investments in initiatives to get more disabled people playing sport, we will hopefully see more disabled people finding their game.