Policy, Ethics and Life Sciences Research Centre

Disability and Sport

Disability and Sport


Between 2011 and 2013 we worked with disabled young people from across the North East of England to explore a variety of issues around sport.

The aim was to gather insights from the young people on the significance of sport to them. We asked what they value and enjoy about it, and also what some of the barriers are that they face.

Janice McLaughlin and Jacqui Rodgers from the Institute of Neurosciences led the project.

We worked with pupils from:

  • Woodlawn School
  • Thomas Bewick School
  • Beacon Hill Sixth Form

This work culminated in a series of public events and resources. Find out about:


We made three films that capture themes about what sport means to them. The young people chose the topic for their film and were involved in all aspects of the filming.

We received funding from Newcastle Institute of Social Renewal. We worked with young people from the three schools and with filmmakers from Beacon Hill Arts.

Watch all three of these films on a YouTube playlist.

Woodlawn School Film

The young film makers from Woodlawn School wanted to find out what other students in their school thought about sport and what were some of the key things they wanted to share with others. Together we developed a survey which the young people then carried out in their school.

Download a summary of the‌ survey (PDF: 653KB).

Thomas Bewick School

Students at Thomas Bewick School discussed how they sometimes struggled to fit in with the rules and format of regular team sports. As an alternative, they came up with their own sport which made sense to them and was something they could enjoy.

Beacon Hill Sixth Form

The sixth formers from Beacon Hill School have been participating in sports activities with non-disabled young people from Tyne Met College studying sport. They wanted their film to reflect the activities they had been doing with the other students and how this represented an integrative approach to sport.

Framed around a visit from the Queen, the film highlights the activities the students did together.


All the films were launched at a Young People’s Workshop. This was held at the Sage, Gateshead, on 12 October 2013.

The workshop was part of the European Academy of Childhood Disability (EACD) annual conference.

The EACD is an organisation of healthcare practitioners and researchers. They work in the field of childhood disability.

The meeting at the Sage was organised by colleagues from the Institute of Health and Society. It was led by Lindsay Pennington and Allan Colver.

It was the first meeting to include a session for disabled young people.

At the closing ceremony we previewed the films made by our young filmmakers. All participants at the conference took a copy of the film home with them.

Being Active/Staying Healthy Workshop

We held a workshop for disabled young people from the North East of England and some young people from Portugal. They came together to debate what sport means to them.

They identified key messages for people involved in sports provision to take into consideration.

The discussions and activities involved the following speakers:

  • Dr Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
  • Stephen Miller, Paralympic Athlete
  • Karen Lewis-Archer, Former Paralympic Athlete
  • Mike Stansfield and Rachel Rich from Sunderland Adaptive Sports
  • Emma Spring, English Federation of Disability Sports
  • Josef Craig, Paralympic Swimmer and BBC Young Sports Person 2012

The workshop was made possible by contributions from the ESRC and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. We are very grateful for their support.

Portuguese visitors

We were privileged to have six disabled young people from Portugal also attend the workshop. They had flown over especially to join in with our discussions.

They met with pupils from Woodlawn. We hope this is just the start of a connection with them.

They made a brief film to introduce themselves to the workshop participants.

Sharing the workshop conclusions

The young people at our workshop were energetic and enthusiastic. They were keen and active in sport and got a huge amount from what they are able to participate in.

There are also important issues to work on that can improve their access to sport.

We have put together various resources to share the discussions at the workshop.

We hope people will use them and share them to improve sport provision for disabled young people.

Downloadable resources

Download the discussions and findings as a sketch summary sketch summary (PDF: 643KB).

Download the key messages from the workshop key messages from the workshop (PDF: 3 MB).

Other resources

Here are some other resources that you might find useful.

Useful organisations


The British Paralympic Association made a video of a young person exploring the future Paralympic sports they could participate in. Watch the video on YouTube.


  • Aitchison, C. (2003) From leisure and disability to disability leisure: developing data, definitions and discourses, Disability and Society, 18(7)
  • Brittain, I. (2004) Perceptions of disability and their impact upon involvement in sport for people with disabilities at all levels, Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 28(4)
  • Finch, N., Lawton, D. Williams, J., Sloper, P. (2001) Young Disabled People and Sport, SPRU: York
  • Fitzgerald, H., Jobling, A. and Kirk, D. (2003) Valuing the voices of young disabled people: Exploring experience of physical education and sport, European Journal of Physical Education, 8(2)
  • Shimmell, L.P., Willem Gorter, J., Jackson, D., Wright, M. and Galuppi, B. (2013) “It’s the Participation that Motivates Him”: Physical Activity Experiences of Youth with Cerebral Palsy and Their Parents, Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics Early Online,