New research released today to celebrate the Youth Sport Trust's work with the Spirit of 2012 has provided a detailed insight into attitudes disabled people have towards volunteering.
The research shows 58% of disabled people surveyed think they can develop a sense of belonging in their local community through volunteering, while 49% feel a rise in confidence as a result of volunteering.
In addition, over half (51%) of disabled people think that volunteering could improve their social skills, with the same figure saying they gain a greater sense of achievement through volunteering.
However the research highlights some worrying barriers for disabled people with 63% of those questioned in the survey feeling that there are fewer opportunities for disabled people to volunteer in sport than non-disabled people.
The research was unveiled by four-time Paralympic swimming champion Ellie Simmonds at the University of Bath today after it was conducted for the Inclusive Futures initiative - part of the Youth Sport Trust's Lead your generation campaign.
Inclusive Futures, which is funded by Spirit of 2012, is a leadership and volunteering initiative for young people, with special emphasis on inclusion.
It features young people aged 14-19, with and without disabilities, volunteering alongside each other to support and deliver physical activities in schools and communities.
Simmonds, who is aiming for further glory at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, hopes the findings of this research can be acted upon through initiatives like Inclusive Futures to get more disabled people involved in sport and volunteering.
Ellie Simmonds said: "It is very telling that this new research shows that over half of disabled people think you could develop a sense of belonging through volunteering and that it helps increase confidence and boost social skills.
"Volunteering is a fantastic activity for anyone to be involved in, as we saw from the positive impact the Games Makers had at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
"I hope my swimming achievements can inspire others to be the best they can.
"That is why I fully support Inclusive Futures because it promotes positive attitudes towards young disabled people, increases their participation in physical activity, develops inclusive practice and empowers thousands of young people to deliver activities in their local communities."
The research unveiling comes ahead of the Youth Sport Trust's Inclusive Futures National Camp which takes place at Loughborough University from March 27-29.
Youth Sport Trust CEO Alison Oliver said: "This research shows the importance of activities such as volunteering and the difference they can make to young people. Through the Inclusive Futures project, we are using sport as a vehicle to develop leadership skills in young disabled people, enabling them to have a stronger voice and opening doors to more volunteer opportunities. The integration of disabled and non-disabled young people through sport related volunteering is changing perceptions and addressing barriers".
"One of the three ambitions of the Youth Sport Trust is to give every young person the best SPORTING CHANCE in life by increasing equality. We are grateful for the support of the Spirit of 2012 and are delighted to be working in partnership with major event host cities and disability sports organisations across the UK. Inclusive Futures is playing an important part in helping us realise our ambition."
Inclusive Futures sees young people from eight major UK cities take part in placements within schools or community clubs and events, guided by a volunteer coordinator who is based within a local sporting organisation.
By the end of programme, 1,000 newly trained volunteers will have led sporting activities for over 10,000 participants.
Spirit of 2012 CEO Debbie Lye said: "We support projects that challenge the perceptions of disability, empower disabled people, support volunteering and develop young people as leaders. Inclusive Futures ticks all those boxes and is also building a valuable evidence base. This new Inclusive Futures research shows the positive impact volunteering and community engagement can have on disabled people, and shines a light on how disabled people can change their communities and realise their own potential"
Inclusive Futures is delivered in partnership with the home nation National Disability Sport Organisations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who provide support and guidance to the project.