International Mixed Ability Sports (IMAS) is celebrating the launch of its new ‘Mixed Ability Awards Scheme’ at the House of Commons this evening by recognising those who have created opportunities for people to overcome barriers to participating in sport. The event will bring together participants and representatives from the worlds of sport, health, disability and politics to hear how the power of sport has transformed communities.
Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch MP said, “I am proud to see organisations like IMAS supporting our mission to remove barriers to participation and make sport an inclusive environment for everyone.”
Mixed Ability sport brings together disabled and non-disabled participants in the same mainstream sport and, in doing so, creates environments that are safe, welcoming and non-judgmental for everyone. Despite knowing that physical activity benefits individuals’ physical and mental health, many people still face barriers to participating in mainstream sport through, for example, disability, age, gender, background or poor self-perception.
Research by the University of Leeds has shown that Mixed Ability sport has a multitude of benefits for individuals, clubs and broader community. For example, creating opportunities for social interaction between diverse groups, and challenging and shifting perceptions and awareness around ability and disability. The research has also highlighted real challenges in promoting the Mixed Ability approach which reflect broader societal issues of inclusion and diversity.
Sarah-Jane Murray founded ‘Unorthobox’ following personal health problems and is proud of the way it has transformed both the lives of individual participants and the wider community. She said: “By working with IMAS to develop the Mixed Ability boxing sessions we’ve made real and lasting improvements to the lives of our participants. Achieving IMAS certification as a coach has blown me away.”
Other awards will be made to the Bumble Bees, England’s first Mixed Ability rugby team, and Letchworth Braveherts who are following in their footsteps. England Rugby are the first national governing body to receive a Mixed Ability award. RFU Rugby Development Director, Steve Grainger said:
“For the last four years we’ve worked closely with IMAS, and this incredible partnership has enabled us to bring rugby to so many more people. We now have 20 Mixed Ability clubs across England and they are growing almost by the week. One of our main aims is to demonstrate that rugby is a sport for everyone, and to challenge the perception that there are some groups who can’t play our great game.”
The benefits of Mixed Ability sport haven’t escaped the NHS. Dr. Mark Purvis, former Director of Post Graduate GP Education Yorkshire and Humber, is a keen supporter of Mixed Ability. He noted:
“The NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge. It can’t meet this challenge without a radical upgrade in prevention and wellbeing. The NHS needs to take an asset-based approach. The Mixed Ability Model works to do this on three levels. At personal level to empower individuals to participate, at local level to harness the power of grassroots sports clubs as community assets to promote health, and at a national level working with government, industry and governing bodies to promote inclusion.”
This is just the start. Sport is leading the way in inclusion – let society follow!