TIC TALK Podcasts

Exploring personal experiences of inclusion

TIC TALK 21: Barry Horne

A podcast with Barry Horne
March 2015
Barry Horne

Barry Horne

English Federation of Disability Sport

Barry Horne is Chief Executive of the English Federation of Disability Sport. EFDS have been leading the charge towards creating more opportunities for people with disability to participate and excel in sport. In this TIC TALK Barry talks about how they go about their business and about the legacy of the London Paralympics of 2012.

Transcript TIC TALK with Barry Horne

Peter:

I’m here today for Tic Talks with Barry Horne, from the English Federation of Disability Sport or EFDS. Hi, Barry.

Barry:

Hi, Peter.

Peter:

And Ken Black as is also here, part of Inclusion Club. So we’ve been chatting away for maybe an hour already. And I just want to summarize some of those discussions, you made a nice expression earlier about the springboard the London Games gave rather—they leave a legacy themselves, it’s actually a springboard for things to happen in the future. What kind of things do you think will come from the springboard that was the London Games in 2012?

Barry:

Yeah my hope is that 2012 changed the context, got decision makers thinking differently about prioritizing sport for disabled people and got them to actually allocate, dedicated on decreased resources and hopefully, this is the bit that could fade if we don’t keep working at it, created a context in the wider society where people were up for a more proactive engagement of disabled people in sport. And it’s a springboard more than a legacy because we’ve got a long term challenge to change the way things work and they were never gonna suddenly change overnight from one spectacular event in London.

Peter:

Yeah that seems like a massive, massive job, because one of your priorities is influencing attitudes, for example, towards physical activity and sport for people with disabilities. What were some of the ways, do you think, you can do that over time?

Barry:

Well the long game, I think, is to shift people away from moderately adapting the supply side office, so that’s a little bit more inclusive towards, say, what would really trigger a substantive change in the behavior of inactive disabled people, what kind of positive benefits do they align with? Things like getting more socially active, having fun, becoming healthier, getting stronger and becoming more mobile, the things that resonate with people are the things you should tap into in terms of understanding what might encourage them to come out and do something. In the past, people have put a poster up saying this, we’re gonna run this event for disabled people, come and have a go and sometimes they work but they’re not getting to the vast majority of disabled people. You know, 80% plus who do no activity at a moment in terms of the once a week measure.

So yeah, there’s a long game on focusing on disabled people, where they’re coming from. There’s also, getting back to the basic fundamentals of the good community engagement or good marketing which says what provision would work for you. So looking at co-production, looking at how disabled people can sit around with those people who provide sport or physical recreation or activities and looking at how to do it differently. And I sense a long haul, the attitudes a bit, you’re optimistic that people are more positive about disabled people in sport but without taking the edge off that, I was sort of uncomfortable seeing—you know, even people who were watching the Paralympics on Channel 4 were much more positive about their views about elite disabled athletes than they were about the disabled community, even from the group who watched the Paralympics.

So there’s optimism but there’s still a long haul and that’s part of it, about disconnecting from sport and physical activity of some people from some of those elite images of sport because people tell us that’s not necessarily what rocks their boat.

Peter:

Yeah we have that conversation about the different kinds of terminology and approaches that might be used to dispel that kind of myth that sport is all about competition and it’s all about winning and all those sorts of things. So I think that’s important to get that approach right, to understand where people with disabilities are coming from.

Barry:

Yeah, definitely, and you know, when we asked seven people what the word sport meant, the biggest one they came back with was competition. Probably structured, probably team, they’re the perceptions that’s around sport whereas recreation threw up concepts of fun and enjoyment which directly resonates back to what matters to people.

Ken:

Speaking as a member of the EFDS board, we try to show them in the Active for Life policy document that there was a broad interpretation of sport so that was—right on the first page, the policy document, there’s a definition of sport that’s much wider than that.

Barry:

Yeah, definitely.

Peter:

It’s not a conflict of interest but you are on the—you’re the director of the Inclusion Club and on the board of the EFDS as well.

Ken:

One other thing I wanted to ask about was over the years when you mentioned about barriers, one of the barriersthat could be perceived out of the barriers that are thrown out by disabled people themselves and being over the whole evolution of disability rights, a kind of dissonance or a lack of connection between the disabled people’s movement and disability sport. I just wondered if you thought why that was and what could we do about it?

Barry:

Yes, it’s a massive issue. When we were talking to disabled people about barriers, we talked really about the biggest one being psychological, externally imposed constraints of other people’s values and beliefs and doubts and sometimes from immediate family members. You know, overprotected and discouraged from doing too much but they also talked about their own self-imposed constraints, that often came from experiences of being excluded from PE or from whatever. I never did that at school, why would I start doing it at as a 25 year old? It’s a big leap to me.

And one of the things we’ve been increasingly finding and thinking about is that when you look at people’s self perceptions, they don’t particularly connect to the concept of being disabled as one of the first things that they would describe themselves and they don’t particularly think that sport is a readily available answer for them. And yet almost all of the promotion and advocacy work still needs to say hey you disabled people, come and do sport and so the shift is partly about broadly understanding what that sport and activity could be so that it becomes relevant for people and then trying to design activity and work—get people to have some ownership about what activities would interest them. But also in the long term, shift activity right—to be a really public health priority, number one, bigger than smoking, bigger than obesity, bigger than everything else and make sure disabled people are seen as the biggest single beneficiary group from that shift in emphasis to physical activity. And some optimism that that might be where policy and thinking is going but also some reality that that suggests that, we’ve seen plenty of waves of initiatives have not embraced, at their center, the needs of disabled people. So there’s a long way to go.

Peter:

Yeah we started our conversation earlier basically asking the question, in the future, would there be a vision, would there be a need for an organization like EFDS in the future? Is part of that goal—is part of your vision to say well, we should do ourselves out of a job if we’re doing our job well?

Barry:

No, absolutely, no, absolutely. We were talking about time wise and I think they seem to move further away but the point at which it’s as likely that a disabled person is active for life as it is for a non-disabled person, why would you need a dedicated body to help people understand what needs to be done, but how you would get there suggests how big a challenge and how long it might take because the prerequisites for that position is that all organizations, whether they’re disabled people’s sport or active recreations, they’re at their core in their thinking and strategies in their actions. They’ve thought about ensuring that it’s as easy for a disabled person to be active as a non-disabled person and we’ve got some way to go.

Peter:

Yeah, yeah, just yet but there’s a question kind of without notice because we talked about it earlier but just occurred to me as you were talking about it, that in Australia, we’d be spending a considerable amount of time, and still do, trying to assist generic sports organizations and I understand the range in choice of opportunities through use of things like the inclusion spectrum and the kinds of opportunities being disability specific or totally inclusive and everything in between, that they’re all valued and equally relevant opportunities. Do you think sports in the UK, where we are right now, do you think sports in the UK kind of understand that level of inclusion, that it is a better opportunity in choice?

Barry:

I don’t think so generally, there might be some pockets of exceptions that within some sports where they’re doing some particularly good work, but this is much bigger than the disabled people’s inclusions. I think the fundamental problem is that sport is run by passionate people who like to do what they’ve always done and actually, there’s an inbuilt resistance sometimes to even new people joining them, a lot of new people might have different leads and potential to them.

So you’re working in a sector that’s quite resilient to change and potentially quite resilient to participation, which is a really interesting challenge very recently, when Sport England, the funding body, have been the same to NGBs we are going to take money away from you because you’re not growing your sport and bringing new participants in. it’s almost been like a shock to your system that when you’ve always given us that money to look after our existing members, what’s the problem? So it’s a big challenge and one that some people are starting to get but then what you need are the right tools and mechanisms to help them understand, opening their minds and following through whether it’s through inclusion training, whether it’s through looking at the next.

We’ve just done a piece of work because our last survey said that there was 66% of 2/3rds of disabled people said they’d rather do sport than non-disabled people but less than half of them were currently doing a sort of physical activity than non-disabled people. So we’re just trying to travel around the county and look at the best practice around people being active together, disabled and non-disabled, and again, that’s new work that we had a chance to see—share some good practice out there. But one of the things I’m always wary of is that we jump in a new direction and say oh, therefore the new answer is—all sport must be offered on an inclusive basis with non-disabled—and there will be some people who still prefer and need and would benefit most from dedicated, exclusive sport that they do with other disabled people with a similar impairment. But increasingly, there’s a wider offer and if you get the approach to inclusion right, you can work across that range.

Ken:

Yeah, I was just going to say, that exactly in the sense of you could argue that the Paralympics and disability sport programs are actually monuments to segregation really, they’re pulling away from inclusion in that sense but it’s providing this, what you mentioned earlier, this range of opportunity—

Barry:

Yeah and that choice, that—some people choose to go to the Paralympics and some of them may even have elite level opportunities available to them but I don’t know about that in reality.

Peter:

Is there—one of the themes that are coming out in my mind at the moment for me as I talk to different people, is that there’s kind of a shared—good organizations really have a shared common goal and vision about what they’re doing. It’s clear, this is where we stand, this is what we do. Do you think that—matter of fact, do you think sport generally has those clear visions and goals about inclusion?

Barry:

I’m not sure what they do—organizations do, yeah. I think it’s a hard thing to get right because what you’re really asking people to do is to shift your focus away from your current user groups and clientele and towards changes, completely different people who you may have not had connections with and so the strongest cultural shift will be to say, you know, how do I get the interest of those people who are not interested in my sport?

Peter:

Yeah it’s the thing you mentioned earlier about change, isn’t it, that a sport can change but a lot of the time, cultures, existing cultures are resistant to change, they just do what they do and do what they know, kind of thing.

Barry:

But I mean, that is partly why I think we do need to see it, I’m seeing some evidence of it but we’ll see where it goes. You’ve got to move away from a prescription, the answer is in the hands of a particular group of providers, whether it’s the sports providers, NGBs in our case or even just sport generally. And actually, I’ll open that out a bit and say where else might people have active recreation opportunities in their communities, in their countryside, in other settings? Shift your target, in a away, open it out and say actually not many people go from sedentary lifestyles to active participants in a structured sport, what else is out there? And I think that’s where more emphasis needs to be.

Peter:

Yeah away from kind of structured sport, yeah. Well, Barry, thank you very much for your time, I appreciate it.

Barry:

Good to see you again.

Peter:

I wish you all the luck in the world.