Scotland’s Learning Disability Week this year, happening right now, takes the theme of ‘community’ – whoever we are, and wherever in Scotland we live, we can all be part of one.
Communities can mean different things to different people but they all have one thing in common – a thriving community is one in which everyone feels connected, included and able to contribute. They play an important role in preventing us from feeling lonely or isolated by bringing us together with friends, neighbours and people with shared interests, helping us to build a support network, and creating a sense of belonging.
We are all aware of the health benefits that sport and physical activity brings, from helping to prevent and manage a range of health conditions, strengthening muscles and bones, andhelping to maintain a healthy weight.
But did you know that being physically active is also a great way to feel part of a community? Activities like joining a local Zumba class, playing 5-a-side, and running with colleagues at lunch time bring us together and make us feel good.
Sadly, people with learning disabilities often face significant barriers to physical activity, including a lack of confidence, feeling unwelcome, feeling unsafe, and local venues and activities not being accessible. Although the national physical activity guidelines are the same for adults with a learning disability as adults without, recent studies show that adults with a learning disability are twice as likely to be inactive.
This is a real problem for the 23,446 adults with a learning disability in Scotland, who risk feeling excluded from the communities they live in as well as experiencing poorer health and wellbeing.
At Edinburgh Leisure, we are a charity dedicated to creating opportunities for everyone in Edinburgh to lead happier, healthier and more active lives. We are proud to provide support to people in the community who face the greatest barriers to being active, including people affected by physical, sensory and learning disabilities, through a range of projects and classes designed to protect their health and wellbeing.
We believe that people with learning disabilities make a valuable contribution to the communities they live in and should enjoy an equal opportunity to be physically active.
That’s why we launched Danceability, an inclusive dance class for adults with additional support needs to explore movement and dance to music, at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in April last year. The classes proved to be so popular that we now have three running across the city each week – at the Royal Commonwealth Pool, Leith Victoria Swim Centre and Gracemount Leisure Centre.
Danceability focusses on inspiring and empowering people with additional support needs to be active through dance by giving everyone the chance to participate and contribute to the choreography. It helps them to improve their fitness, balance and mobility, as well as supporting them to create social connections and feel part of a community.
Friends Stacey and Jessie take part in our Leith class with instructor Roz. Earlier this year we supported them to gain a Zumba instructor qualification and recently they’ve been working with Roz to put together some choreography and teach a few tracks in class.
Stacey loves being on stage teaching the most whereas Jessie likes to work on her technique and get the choreography just right. Since the girls started playing such an active role in class, their confidence to lead the group has improved. They are more active than ever, and they’ve really started to come out of their shells. It has been wonderful to watch them both flourish and have so much fun.
I feel lucky to be part of what I think is a very special Edinburgh Leisure community – one where I’m happy, feel valued and have a sense of identity. I’m proud that we’re a community that welcomes people of all ages, abilities and walks of life and recognises the brilliant contribution of people with learning disabilities.
If you or someone you know would like more information on our Danceability classes, contact Sara Kemp at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07939901804.
Sara Kemp is active communities development officer for disabilities with Edinburgh Leisure.