Active Ambassador Phoebe Gibbons on the importance of inclusive activity
Posted: Fri, 05 Feb 2021 16:03
Everyone should have their voice heard in the fight against inactivity. Active Ambassador Phoebe Gibbons on what the Active Ambassadors scheme is and shares her views on the importance of inclusive activity:
The Active Ambassadors Scheme is an initiative whereby Active Oxfordshire works with people from across Oxfordshire who come from all different walks of life, to share their experiences of facing barriers to getting active and how these barriers have been overcome. I'm very privileged to be part of the first cohort, all of whom have a wealth of experience and share a passion to ensure that everyone, regardless of who they are, including older people, people with disabilities and those from different ethnic backgrounds, should be able to have equal opportunities to accessing physical activity.
As a person living with a physical disability, I know how important physical activity is but I also know how difficult it can be to access physical activity and sport in general. Below I have outlined what my thoughts as to what I think the key priorities should be this year in ensuring disabled people are able to do this.
5 key priorities
I feel, firstly, the main priority is ensuring that there is a clearer understanding as to what 'disability' means. The word 'disability' is often related to the idea of a wheelchair or crutches or needing support in a physical sense, and though this is true, disability also covers conditions which can affect learning, emotions, cognitive skills, the senses and the way individuals understand the world mentally. It is important that the needs of individuals with these disabilities are considered and that these needs are met within the environment that the activity is taking place. It is also important to consider that not all disabilities are visible.
A second priority is that we don't take a step backwards in terms of the availability of disability sport due to the Covid-19 pandemic and to continue to build on much of the positive work that has been happening prior to and throughout the pandemic. Many people with disabilities feel forgotten about in all aspects of society and I believe with so much change having happened in the last year, we can continue to build on positive change. There also needs to be consideration as to how we encourage people with disabilities back into society as many will have been shielding for much of the past year due to the virus.
A third priority needs to be how disability activity and sport is included in PE lessons across all educational settings but in particular primary and secondary. Some schools are excellent at adapting lessons or just including disability sport as part of their curriculum, however other schools need support in achieving this and so it needs to be considered how this can be done. Children with disabilities also have the right to have access to PE lessons and these need to be adapted accordingly, we want everyone to have a positive attitude to and experience of physical activity.
A fourth element is considering how we reach those who have difficulties in navigating the outdoors environment whether that be due to transport difficulties or not feeling safe in outside spaces. With many of us having had to use technology in recent times, I feel thought needs to be given as to how we can use this to provide an alternative option for those who want to engage in physical activity but have barriers in reaching this in the usual environment.
A fifth priority is working in partnership. There are many great initiatives taking place across Oxfordshire but sometimes they do not reach those who they are aimed at. Working in partnership with various partners, including local charities will help not only in reaching a wider audience but also to share best practice.
For me, being active is of the utmost importance, not only for my physical wellbeing but for my mental wellbeing as well. After experiencing limited opportunities to physical activity as a teenager, I decided that as an adult I would do all I could to find ways, both out in the community and at home, to stay as active as I can within my capabilities. I have found many ways to do this and this has not only had a massive positive impact on my mental wellbeing, I have also experienced positives in relation to my condition. This is fantastic, as despite physiotherapy being vitally important, it is nice to be able to engage in physical activity which is both fun and offers social elements as well as helping to manage my muscle tone and strength. I know physical activity has so many benefits and I am passionate about ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to experience these benefits. I believe we are all unique, we all have something positive to offer and we need to focus on what people can do rather than what people can't do.