From Clubbercise to Pokemon Go – people with learning disabilities spark up the Get Set Leeds conversation

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Of all the people in Leeds who’ve joined the Get Set Leeds conversation, the people we’ve talked to with learning disabilities have been amongst the funniest, the most creative and the boldest.

After chatting to men and women from groups and services across the city including Aspire CBS, Pass it on People, Change People and Your Health Matters, one thing is clear – there’s work to be done to improve physical activity opportunities for people with learning disabilities in Leeds.

The Pass it on People don’t pull any punches – they all highlighted issues with transport, information sharing, and support systems which impact on their ability to be active.

The Aspire CBS customer council came up with a big wish list of activities they’d like to see in Leeds, from skydiving to horse-riding, while Change People offered to produce easy-read information booklets to promote physical activity for people with learning disabilities in the city.

Nationally, research has found that inactivity is more common for people with a disability or a health condition (42%) than those without (21%). For people living with a disability, it is recommended to aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity. There are many things that get in the way of someone with a learning disability being active, and not all of them can be addressed as part of the Get Set Leeds project. But the people we spoke to came up with so many practical and achievable ideas for how things could change across the city.

In terms of how people find out about what’s going on, the internet wasn’t necessarily first choice. One group suggested developing a range of easy-read resources highlighting walking routes in Leeds. Through the Maze is a newsletter for people with learning disabilities which can be used to share information on physical activity opportunities, while Change People offered to help with producing easy-read booklets.

For those who need some support to access a leisure centre, one man suggested having a disability champion in each Active Leeds site, who could meet people at the door and offer some extra encouragement. A buddy system for support to access physical activity opportunities was also discussed.

The nightclub Pryzm hosts a club night for people with learning disabilities, so one woman suggested holding a Clubbercise class there as well. Other ideas included free exercise classes in libraries and schools, close to where people live, and using Pokemon Go as a way to get out of the house.

More adapted bikes in different parts of the city, additional walking groups for women and younger people, and healthier food in leisure centres were also raised. Another great idea was to use Made in Leeds TV to broadcast physical activity sessions for people who struggle to leave the house.

One common theme was the influence of carers and staff working with people who have a learning disability. If carers and staff prioritise physical activity and work to make it happen, it’s much more likely that the people they support will be active. Awareness-raising or training for staff and carers was a positive idea that came up several times.

People around us can be one of the most powerful influences on what we do. And after chatting with these guys, it was hard not to feel inspired to make a change. The conversations and ideas suggested by the learning disability community will be collated as part of the citywide Get Set Leeds project. If you want to add something, please complete the survey and let us know how physical activity fits into your life and what changes in the city would encourage you to become even more physically active!

Photo by Mandy Bannister

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