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Themes: Inclusive Design

Inclusive Design Practice Series: Social Practices of Inclusive Design at Sheffield MENCAP Friday Sports Club

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Benjamin Duke

This blog was written as part of a new series on Inclusive Design practice, highlighting the work of the members of GDI Hub’s Inclusive Design Network. The Inclusive Design Network brings together individuals and organisations passionate about inclusive design and disability innovation. Find out more and sign up here.

Inclusive Design Practice Series:

Social Practices of Inclusive Design at Sheffield MENCAP Friday Sports Club

On Friday evenings I do voluntary work for Sheffield MENCAP, supporting disabled children aged 6 to 16 years old to play sport, and write this blog on the eve of attending an Olympic and Paralympic Games themed event as we anticipate the start of the Paralympics in Tokyo!

I consider my work assisting disabled people play the sport Boccia, as evidence of “The social model of disability” [1] as disabled players are empowered to compete to the best of their own ability through the assistive and adaptive nature of the competition.

As part of my voluntary work, I support a disabled child with autism and cerebral palsy who uses a walking frame on a one-to-one basis to engage in sport. I do this through a catching game that I created, something to help build up skills and confidence. This is just one small example of how sport can be manipulated to empower disabled people, allowing them to participate on a level playing field and not just watch from the sidelines. [2] Small changes like this make a real difference to the disabled children attending our Friday Sport Club who may not be able to bounce, catch or throw a ball to one another. I have learnt that integrating fun and play, games like chasing a monster, or having a barrel as a target, can encourage some disabled children to take part when they would otherwise have not. In some cases, the same children go on to participate in a sport like Boccia, when previously they may not have tried or thought it possible. [3]

My vision now is to create a series of fun, hybrid sports and games, where both disabled adults and children can participate and be included. Activities like this are effective and can be done easily and cheaply – something that matters to smaller disability organisations with limited financial resources.

Adapting sports to enable participation by disabled children with differing levels of cognitive function and/or mobility, is a social form of inclusive design. It demonstrates that the social model of disability still holds true today. Someone’s disability is not the barrier, the barriers exist around that person and we all have a role to play in breaking down those barriers in sport and beyond.

Views expressed in this blog belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the Global Disability Innovation Hub and its staff.

Author Biography

Dr,. Benjamin Duke PhD, has research interests in the ageing demography, European political science, higher education, pedagogy, squatter’s social movements and environmentally sustainable transport. Ben Duke holds a PhD in Social Policy (2017) from Keele University, United Kingdom (UK). He currently works or has worked in research positions for UCL, University College London, UK on the Global Disability Innovation Hub project (2020); the University of Northampton UK, for the Faculty of Arts, Science and Technology on the Higher Education Ethnicity Award Attainment Gap project (2020); and the University of Nottingham UK, for the Centre for Research in Race and Rights on a MEITS (Multilingualism – Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies) project (2019). Ben Duke has had eleven discussion papers published including a book chapter and conference paper. His most recent article being printed in January 2021. He is NHS Sheffield Deputy Lead Governor in the UK. He volunteers for Sheffield MENCAP, assisting vulnerable adults and children to learn and participate in social activities. He also does voluntary work for numerous other charities, fundraising for children with cancer, helping to deliver social justice. 


[1] Defined as artificial structural systemic barriers, which act to unfairly exclude people with disabilities from fully participating in societal activities, including sport. (See also SCOPE, ‘Social Model of Disability,’ 18 July 2021. Available from: (accessed 19 July 2021).

[2] See also Schulze, Sarah. (2021) ‘Teacher Tips for Inclusive Classrooms,’ Cerebral Palsy Guidance, 3 January 2021. Available from: (accessed 20 July 2021).

[3] See also Cassi, R., Kajita, M., and Popovic Larsen, O. (2021) ‘User-Environment Interaction: The Usability Model for Universal Design Assessment,’ in Verma, I. (Ed) Universal Design 2021: From Special to Mainstream Solutions, Volume 282. Amsterdam: IOS Press BV, pp55-70. Available from: (accessed 19 July 2021).