Ben also has a young son, five-year-old Seth, who is autistic. His twin passions of volunteering and supporting his child to enjoy sport and physical activity combined when he took part in Sainsbury’s Inclusive Community Training in July 2015.
“My son has autism and I also have a cousin with Down’s Syndrome,” Ben told the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS).
“I want to help disabled people to use sport to improve their self-esteem and have some fun, participating on whatever level they can manage.
“For me, what’s really important is universal access to sport and physical activity. If universality doesn’t exist then people are limited by what they can and cannot do.
“If you don’t alter the way we approach physical activity then you are denying a number of people the opportunity.”
Ben is one of over 4,400 people to have benefitted from Sainsbury’s Inclusive Community Training, which is designed to improve the skills and confidence of those who support disabled people to be more active, and is a creative and informal development opportunity.
He admits that last summer he had high hopes for the workshop, delivered by experienced tutors from project partners sports coach UK.
“On the day I was hoping Sainsbury’s Inclusive Community Training would teach me more about delivery and setting things up for participants. I was a complete novice.
“I really enjoyed learning about activities that you could organise across all age groups. The workshop really brought everyone there together on the day, bringing people out of their shells and getting everyone involved.
“Everyone, working in groups, had to devise their own exercises to demonstrate what they had learned. Then we tried each other’s exercises, which was excellent.
“The final exercise we did we learned how to modify various games depending on various abilities. It was fascinating to learn how to adjust an activity. With cricket, for example, you could alter the size of the bat or ball, or amend the distance of the wicket. It’s all about trying to enable everyone to fulfil what they want to as part of an activity.”
'The more people understand the needs of different people the better'
Sainsbury’s Inclusive Community Training is for those who support disabled people of all ages within the community, and have an opportunity to put the training into practice.
For Ben, the skills he developed on that day in July have been applied in his work for charity and at a local day centre.
“At the day centre there are a number of disabled people with different impairments. The day centre has a room full of exercise bikes and trikes, and I make sure I’m there to adjust settings to enable someone to use a bike.
“You want people to feel as safe as possible when participating, and if they feel safe it gives them the drive to actually do the activity themselves.
“As a National Autistic Society volunteer I am now able to look at an activity and alter it for people across the autistic spectrum.
“I’ve also applied what I have learned with my own son. He doesn’t necessarily want to understand or play football, for example, but I allow him to run around with the ball and kick it himself, allowing him his own space so he can individually enjoy it.
“I even encourage him to come up with his own game, based on football. It’s helped him to enjoy the sport, and it’s even helped me enjoy it more.”
Ben maintains that Sainsbury’s Inclusive Community Training played a central part in his development as a volunteer and even as a parent.
“Sainsbury’s Inclusive Community Training helps people like me to develop my understanding. A lot of people are reticent or unsure about offering accessible activities. That creates the impression that sport is inaccessible to disabled people.
“The more people inside sport understand the needs of different people the better.”