International Day of People with Disabilities and the CSJ
Thursday 3rd December is International Day of People with Disabilities and offers an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of people with disabilities around the world. This day also reminds society that much still needs to be done to address discrimination and exclusion.
For people with disabilities inequalities have become even more pronounced as the world lives with and tackles the Covid-19 pandemic. Sport is a case in point where people with disabilities have often been marginalised and our researchers have recently talked about the impact of Covid-19 on disability sport. This is one of several key areas of research found within the Centre for Social Justice in Sport (CSJ) that is helping those who run sport to grapple with the challenges and possibilities of delivering sport for people with disabilities. Our research focusing on Disability Sport and Adapted Physical Activity is wide ranging and includes:
Battle Back – Adaptive sport and military recovery
In partnership with The Royal British Legion and the Ministry of Defence, Leeds Beckett University provide supportive courses for wounded, injured and sick military personnel at The Battle Back Centre.
A team of research staff and post graduate students study the long term influence the recovery courses have on the lives of the participants. This novel longitudinal research has identified that even six months after attending the five-day course 75% of respondents were still maintaining positive behaviour changes that had been facilitated by their attendance. These new changes are aligned with improved psychological well-being in six key areas:
Positive relations with others
Purpose in life
Supporting spinal cord and brain injured rugby players, their families and carers
The Rugby Football Union’s Injured Players Foundation is a charity serving those who have been catastrophically injured playing rugby. Their welfare officer was aware of the positive impact the Battle Back recovery courses have for WIS military personnel and felt that their beneficiaries could benefit from similar supportive courses. LBUs impact evidence showed the IPF they could gain an understanding of the effects a bespoke course delivered by Carnegie Great Outdoors may have on their client’s well-being. Dr Karen Hood, Director of the IPF said “If the previous research had shown there was no measurable improvement in individuals’ self-esteem, mental wellbeing, quality of life, then it would have been inappropriate for us to progress”. Karen went on to explain that the research from the pilot IPF course “immediately gave us proof of concept, this is a type of programme that we should be continuing with and that in itself is hugely valuable”. The IPF have funded annual courses every year since 2017. To date, 27 spinal cord and brain injured participants, members of their family and carers have benefited.
Special school physical education
The CSJ has undertaken research with speical schools to extend the debate about the nature, purpose and value of physical education within special schools. This is a setting and area of professional practice that has been largely ignored in previous research. This builds on CSJ research over the last twenty years that has sought the options of pupils with disabilities in mainstream and special schools.
Postgraduate research in Disability Sport and Adapted Physical Activity
Within the CSJ we have a buoyant community of PhD students researching disability sport and adapted physical activity. Here is what they said about their research this week on CSJ Twitter (@TheCSJ_Sport).
Rachel Farman - "Person-centred approaches to research enable valuable insights and a broader understanding of the nature and complexity of disabled people's experiences. Researchers need a flexible, inclusive outlook and should be willing to take risks."
Chris Webber – “My research explores learning transfer after a personal development residential programme amongst military veterans who commonly experience various physical, psychological, and cognitive challenges.”
Laura Wilcock - “I’m researching the physical activity experiences of people who have suffered spinal cord injury playing rugby union”
Vicky Myers – “My research interest in disability sport sponsorship started after the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Since then, I’ve strived to capture the experiences of athletes within the commercial side of elite disability sport”
This research, and that of other colleagues, is helping to ask crucial questions about how sport can sometimes enable but also disable people with disabilities.
Beyond this research the Carnegie School of Sport has a track record of supporting undergraduates to begin to think and practice inclusively. Many of our sports related courses include modules that promote the idea that everyone has a right to take part in sport, including people with disabilities. Learning can be challenging because students need to be openminded and think beyond their own (often) non-disabled experiences and understandings of sport. When students graduate, we hope they have a more positive outlook towards supporting people with disabilities to have fulfilling sporting experiences.
Taken together, our research, partnerships and teaching are going some way to addressing the inequalities experienced by people with disabilities in sport. Of course, there is still much to do within and beyond Leeds Beckett University. The challenge remains to ensure actions are maintained throughout the year rather than just considered today.
Dr Chris Kay is a Senior Research Fellow working with Carnegie Great Outdoors. He predominantly works with wounded, injured and sick military personnel on a project called Battle Back. This is delivered and researched by our staff on behalf of The Royal British Legion. At The Battle Back Centre, week long courses are delivered that encompass adaptive adventurous training and personal development for military personnel who are recovering from injury or illness. Chris oversees the longevity research which is conducted in line with these courses, gathering information to understand what part these experiences have in facilitating the participant's recovery.