Sports and disability: Engaging with a wider audience

We asked Bernadette McGrady, Inclusion Advisor at the Information Access Group, to share her insights on accessible communication and how sports clubs can engage with diverse audiences.

What are the biggest challenges that sports clubs face when they are trying to engage with people with disability? 

A lot of clubs start out with good intentions but this can fade out because they don’t set their direction down in a disability action plan. This means they have a few ad-hoc wins with more people participating, but there is no real ongoing strategy to capitalise on this. 

Secondly, most clubs don’t produce marketing material that works. They send unclear messages with no call to action, they use terminology that doesn’t engage their target markets and the design is often cluttered and hard to read. This makes a real difference to engagement – especially for people with intellectual disability, who respond well when the content is easy to read and designed for their needs. 

Thirdly, some people are nervous about communicating with people with disability and they worry that they won’t be able to overcome the communication barriers. This can be done. There are simple tips and tricks to communicate and interact with people with disability that can improve engagement over the longer term. 

And finally, many clubs have websites that are not easy to navigate. They might do things like place their disability/inclusive section in an obscure place, create articles that don’t engage all people and lack a variety of inclusive images.  All of these things are relatively easy to fix, so it’s absolutely possible to overcome the challenges and get more people with disability taking part in your club. 

What’s the best way to connect with diverse audiences? 

Everyone knows how important having a website is these days but most of the websites in Australia are not accessible. In fact, Graeme Innes, the former Disability Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission, who has a vision impairment, has said that up to 98 per cent of the websites in Australia are not accessible. At the moment, there’s a bit of a buzz going on in web accessibility circles because a vision impaired user is taking Coles to court over her inability to access their online shopping service. She found the site so hard to use that it sometimes took her several days to place an order. 

My suggestion is that organisations consider their audience’s needs when they are working on their websites. And sometimes web accessibility is more than just technical requirements – it’s also about usability, and how to make your content easy to read, easy to find and easy to act on. A great website will be useful to everyone, regardless of literacy level, technical capacity or disability. 

In your experience, is the culture of sport changing? 

Definitely. Over the 20 years I’ve been working in the sporting field, I’ve noticed huge shifts in attitudes towards inclusion. I’ve really enjoyed seeing people with disability take to the field, the court or the pool, and get involved in activities that make their life so much healthier and more fulfilling. It’s really inspired me to take action in my own life to help others and I get a lot of joy out of sharing this enthusiasm with my colleagues and the clients I work with. 

What sort of work do you do with the Information Access Group?

I work specifically in the sport and rec community, helping organisations think about the way they can connect with diverse audiences. I draw on my background as an Access for All Abilities Coordinator and fitness trainer, and I work on strategies to help organisations be more inclusive – with a particular focus on communication. The Information Access Group specialises in accessible communication, and they do great work in the space of Easy Read materials and accessible websites, so they are a great fit with my ethos around inclusion.

If you want to find out more, contact Bernadette McGrady at the Information Access Group on: Phone: (03) 9585 2299 Mobile: 0408 020 054 Email: or Web: