As part of EuropeActive’s commitment to promote and safeguard an inclusive and welcoming environment for all across the fitness and physical activity ecosystem, and in close collaboration with EuropeActive’s Inclusion Advisory Group, we are delighted to get a head start on the 2023 Inclusion calendarThis is further correlated with our European activities as it falls under our awareness-raising activities for our #HealthyLifestyle4All pledge.
To round off 2022, we are shinning a spotlight on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) with Advisory Group member and ukactive’s Strategic Lead – Inclusion, Tim Mathias. 
Saturday 3 December was the 30th International Day for Disabled People (IDDP), the United Nation’s annual celebration of disabled people across all areas of society. It aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and enhance support for the dignity, rights and well-being of disabled people. With this day in mind, and in line with EuropeActive’s commitment to inclusion let us consider the fitness and physical activity sector’s relationship with disability and disabled people.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons defines disabled people as ‘those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’. Around 87 million people in the EU have some form of disability. 
When we consider disabled people through the lens of physical activity, it becomes apparent the role we can play. Gyms, swimming pools, and other fitness and leisure facilities play an important part in supporting disabled people’s activity levels. And we know that our industry is critical and relied upon by so many.
There are those who simply enjoy their visits to the leisure centre and gym, but there are also those who rely on our essential service to learn crucial life skills, to socialise with those around them, to increase their connections with their community, and to improve their physical and mental health. Consider those who are learning to swim, practice functional fitness, easing the effects of an impairment, or use exercise as part of rehabilitation ¬– physical activity is an indispensable part of their lives and of their wellbeing.
In England, we know that disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive but this is a group, along with those with long-term conditions and illnesses that perhaps has the most to gain and could reap the benefits of our industry. At ukactive, we are uniquely placed to draw on our partnerships to raise awareness across the sector; to grow our relationship with specialist disability organisations; and to convene operators and suppliers to share learnings and evidence. Through our Everyone Can agenda we are working to remove the barriers, supporting the sector to make continuous improvement to the provision of services for disabled people across the fitness and leisure sector. It's a renewed effort to set a collaborative tone for inclusion and accessibility. 
We have set up the Everyone Can Task Force, which is made up of leaders from the sport and physical activity sector who will work together to help realise the full potential of fitness and leisure facilities in supporting disabled people to be active. The Task Force provides leadership on the agenda and is helping to develop practical guidance for fitness and leisure operators to tackle the barriers and challenges faced by disabled people, while highlighting the demand from disabled people and the opportunities available through better engagement. 
Everyone Can is about recognising the good work taking place, the demand for physical activity among disabled people, the impact and benefits it enables for so many, and the great potential for more. A recent survey by Activity Alliance indicated that four in five (81%) disabled adults want to do more activity than they currently do. With International Day for Disabled People in mind, and the 87 million disabled people in Europe that the day seeks to celebrate, let’s take our opportunity to progress disability inclusion to ensure that the benefits that fitness and physical activity are realised by all.
ukactive has launched a new online portal which allows fitness and leisure operators to sign-up to receive new and upcoming resources to help them improve services for disabled people. Visit the Everyone Can portal to sign-up today:
By Timothy Mathias, Strategic Lead – Inclusion, ukactive
Dec 19, 2022 By Ioana Marica