Today is the launch of EmployAbility Leisure, an initiative to create more accessible and inclusive training and workplaces for disabled people in the leisure sector.

To mark the launch, Aspire is releasing three Guides to support the industry to attract more disabled people to the sector workforce. Although 1 in 5 of the working-age population in the UK are classed as disabled, only 52% are employed compared to 81% of non-disabled people, and there are indications that the employment gap is far greater within the leisure sector workforce. It is recognized by many industry stakeholders that the fitness and leisure sector is often portrayed in narrow terms that lacks diversity and inclusivity.

The front covers of the 3 guides

The Guides have been produced by Aspire following its successful InstructAbility Programme which helped hundreds of disabled people become qualified fitness professionals. The guidelines for education providers and employers will support them to tackle some of the barriers that disabled people experience in accessing training and work in the sector.

Chloe Smith, Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, said:

“Everyone deserves the same opportunity to find fulfilling work in a job where they can progress, including in the health and fitness industry.  Lack of accessibility and understanding of the support available can be a barrier to disabled people entering the workforce, and these Guides will provide further vital help for employers and employees to know what help they can get and how to access it.” 

The evidence-based guidance is based on research with disabled people and those involved in leisure sector training, recruitment, and employment. The research was conducted by Professor Brett Smith from Durham University and Dr. Julliette Stebbings from the University of Portsmouth.

  • Guide A for disabled people, ‘Training and working in the fitness and leisure sector’ is a guide to inform and inspire disabled people to start a career in the sector.
  • Guide B for training providers and awarding bodies, ‘Training disabled learners in the fitness and leisure sector’ supports those delivering training to provide inclusive and accessible courses.
  • Guide C for employers, ‘Employing disabled people in the fitness and leisure sector’ provides guidance about inclusion and how  to become a disability confident employer and recruit and develop more disabled staff.

EmployAbility Leisure is backed by national organisations that have a strong desire and commitment to improve workforce diversity across the physical activity sector.

Hilary Farmiloe, EmployAbility Leisure Strategic Lead at Aspire said:

"We welcome the collective effort of industry leaders to continue to push the EmployAbility Leisure agenda and challenge our whole sector to build diverse workforces with disabled people represented across many roles and at all levels."

The initiative is funded by Sport England, that has placed tackling inequalities at the heart of its ‘Uniting the Movement’ strategy. Sport England recognises how a diverse workforce can help reduce the participation gap between disabled and non-disabled people.

CIMSPA (the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity) will take an active role in raising standards of access and inclusion in training through their endorsement and quality assurance role.

ukactive’s Everyone Can report – the first of its kind focusing on the facilitation and participation of disabled people within fitness and leisure – recommended that more advice is needed to attract disabled people into employment within the sector. ukactive will play a proactive role in promoting the EmployAbility Leisure guides as part of its Everyone Can agenda, which is a rolling programme to support inclusion and accessibility across the sector.

Activity Alliance, national charity, and the leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity, will actively promote the guides through its networks and will influence their partners and supporters to embed inclusive workforce development practices and achieve fairness for disabled people in sport and activity.

People who have already viewed the Guides have commented on the valuable information and practical approach of the guidance. There is real hope of stimulating long-lasting industry change with many organisations stating their intention to review and embed the guidance and to support other organisations to do the same.

The Guides are available to view and download at along with a series of video interviews with disabled people, training providers and employers discussing the guidance.

EmployAbility Leisure