Improving access across Argyll
Argyll Activities was supported by Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC) to engage with sports clubs and the disabled community to find out what sporting activities disabled people were able to take part in and what barriers existed to taking part. Through a series of focus groups, the group was able to come up with a number of findings and recommendations.
Argyll Activities is a community project based in Ardrishaig and is part of the Ardrishaig Community Development Trust. The project offers a wide variety of sporting and outdoor opportunities to the residents of Argyll. Through the Commonwealth Games Legacy for Communities Programme the project has been engaging with Argyll sports clubs and the disabled community to find out what sporting activities disabled people are currently interested in, what the barriers are to getting involved, and what will enable existing clubs to be genuinely inclusive.
Argyll Activities first began the engagement process in August 2011 with the aim of establishing what the barriers were to disabled people in Argyll participating in sporting and outdoor activities. Although well served by outdoor activities providers, there is currently no disabled sports organisation in the area, and a detailed survey on participation rates has never before been carried out.
A survey was undertaken with funding from the Big Lottery's ‘Investing in Ideas' Fund and with support from the Scottish Government's Legacy programme. Further support was then provided through the Scottish Community Development Centre (SCDC)'s Legacy for Communities programme, to engage with the disabled community in Argyll in order to understand what they want to see for their community as a legacy for the Commonwealth Games.
As a result of the new information gathered from the surveys and focus groups, Argyll Activities hopes to work with local partners to establish a project which will meet the identified needs of people with disabilities in Argyll.
Growth and development
Argyll Activities undertook 4 focus groups in Campbeltown, Oban, Dunoon and Helensburgh. These focus groups were advertised in the local press and through partnership channels. Approximately 30 people attended the events and contributed to the discussions. The focus groups were followed up by in-depth interviews with 17 individuals consisting solely of disabled people and support workers.
"If you go to a gym most people there are able-bodied and relatively fit. This can be off-putting if you are conscious of your own appearance. If there was a place for people like me it would be great."
At the same time Argyll Activities distributed two thematic questionnaires, one for sports organisations and one for disabled people. The questionnaires were circulated online and in paper format at meetings and through disabled peoples' organisations.
" I don't know if local clubs would accept us..." (mental health service user)
Some of the key findings from the research were:
- The biggest barrier to participation in activities was cost. Health, weather and transport were cited as major difficulties. Other barriers that might be described as ‘attitudinal' included shyness, lack of company or support and a poor welcome.
- People were interested in an extremely wide variety of sports; however archery, kayaking, walking and swimming were among the most popular.
- The majority of activity currently undertaken was in informal situations, with almost none in formal sporting institutions or locations (gyms, pools, pitches etc).
- Activity providers wanted greater access to training and adaptive aids so that they could provide better quality experiences for all their users.
Argyll Activities now have robust evidence from their engagement process, which they have recorded through the use of the VOiCE community engagement planning and evaluation tool. The group now plans to take the findings to the reference group who were a key part of the consultation, in order to get their feedback and take forward the recommendations. In addition, many of the respondents have asked to be kept up to date with the findings as they happen and their feedback will also be invaluable. The information from the report of the research will form the basis and the evidence for a future project to be agreed with the reference group.
Lessons and learning
Key recommendations from the engagement process were:
1. Disability Training and Awareness - Disabled people and activity providers need to be supported to share knowledge and experiences. Training is required regarding disability issues including understanding needs and particular conditions.
2. Personal & Social Support - Disabled people need some form of ‘buddy system' to help them engage with sport and outdoor activities. The ‘buddy system' would lead to increased confidence & participation for disabled.
3. Access to Information - there is a need for more accessible information about what opportunities are available and when they are available. Argyll needs tailored information about sports and outdoor activities, in appropriate formats for a wide variety of disabled users.
4. Increased opportunity to access the environment - Access for all people to outdoor activities regardless of ability. This should be achieved in an environmentally responsible way.
5. Increased empowerment for disabled people - Increasing the involvement of disabled people in the decision making & governance of all-ability sports projects and increased representation on strategic bodies in Argyll.
Argyll Activities had never conducted community action research before and had great advice and support, both in the preparation of the consultation, using VOiCE, and then at the collating of the results. It was great to have someone help us with our focus and with good advice throughout, and we hope the work we have done together goes some way to leaving a lasting and powerful legacy in Argyll for one of the more marginalised groups in our gorgeous county.
Antonia Baird, Project Coordinator, Argyll Activities.
As part of the Commonwealth Games Legacy Programme, the Scottish Government commissioned SCDC to work with community organisations across Scotland to support them to use the Games as a catalyst for building on their work to develop activities and projects that involve local people, increase local community action and support the achievement of better health and social outcomes.
You can read more about Argyll Activities and their partners at the following news story: http://forargyll.com/2012/04/ardrisaig-event-gets-ready-for-summer/