The proportion of disabled people playing sport regularly has increased by more than a fifth since London won the right to stage the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, according to new figures.
Increasing disabled people’s participation in sport, and addressing the barriers that prevent them taking part, are key elements in the government’s plans for a lasting legacy from London 2012.
The latest results from Sport England’s ongoing Active People Survey show the percentage of disabled adults playing sport every week has risen from 15.1 per cent to 18.2 per cent since October 2005, an increase of more than 20 per cent.
The number of disabled adults participating regularly has risen from 1.32 million to 1.66 million.
The figures also show a rise over the latest period (comparing October 2010-October 2011 with April 2011-April 2012), from 17.7 per cent to 18.2 per cent.
The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), which aims to increase participation in sport and physical activity, welcomed the “significant increase”.
An EFDS spokeswoman said it was vital that the sport sector used the momentum provided by London 2012 to continue to increase participation in future years.
She said the London 2012 Paralympics had “definitely had an impact” on disabled people’s participation in sport, but she added: “We want that legacy or momentum to last much longer than 2012.”
She said disability and mainstream sports bodies were now working more closely together, while disabled people were increasingly able to find information about sporting opportunities on the internet.
EFDS said it was pleased that the “priority sports” it had been working with over the last year – football, swimming, wheelchair tennis, cycling and athletics – had all shown growth.
Sport England said participation rates were likely to have been helped by sports bodies’ increasing efforts to “put sport in the shop window” in the lead-up to London 2012.
A Sport England spokesman said: “Ever since we won the bid [in 2005] there has been a huge focus on seizing the opportunity and making the most of it.”
Meanwhile, ParalympicsGB has announced the 18-strong para-cycling team that will compete at London 2012.
Cyclists won 20 medals for Britain at the Beijing games, including 17 golds, and several of the top performers from four years ago will be defending titles in London.
The team includes multi-gold medallists Sarah Storey, Darren Kenny, Aileen McGlynn and Jody Cundy, and Beijing gold medallists David Stone and Rachel Morris.
Storey will defend two titles in a bid to add to her 18 Paralympic medals, 16 of which were in swimming. For more details, visit the ParalympicsGB website.
ParalympicsGB has also announced its eight-strong rowing team, which includes reigning Paralympic champion Tom Aggar, who competes in the “arms and shoulders only” single scull.
The team will enter three events at London 2012. For full details, visit the ParalympicsGB website.