Safeguarding d/Deaf and disabled children

Last updated: 28 Apr 2023
Safeguarding d/Deaf and disabled children

d/Deaf and disabled children and young people face the same risks as all children and young people, but they are at greater risk of some types of abuse.

It’s essential that sport or activity providers create a supportive and welcoming culture for all children, safe from harm and a place where they can thrive. First and foremost, you should consider the child or young person first, and any ‘disability’ is secondary.

You don't need to understand every aspect of a person’s specific disability, condition or sensory need, however you should consider their particular needs when planning your activity. It’s important to have an awareness and understanding of the challenges that individual may face and this guidance will help you.

What does disability really mean?

You’ll probably encounter some of the terminology below when working with disabled children and young people, so familiarising yourself with the language used is important.

We’re using the term ‘disabled children’ to refer to children and young people with a range of very different conditions and identities, some of whom may not identify as being disabled. This includes children and young people who:

  • are d/Deaf
  • are neurodiverse, such as being on the autistic spectrum or having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • have a learning disability
  • have a physical disability such as cerebral palsy
  • have visual impairment
  • have a long-term illness

Awareness and understanding

Everyone who is responsible for, or in contact with, children and young people should think about how they can better equip themselves to be able to support and recognise concerns when working with children and young people with disabilities.

It is important to understand why signs or indicators of abuse may be overlooked when a child has a disability. Aspects of an individual’s disability or needs may make it harder for indictors of abuse to be recognised. Also, possible signs or indicators could be interpreted as a characteristic of the child’s disability and possible abuse may be overlooked, leaving the child at risk. 

Learn more about child abuse in a sport setting and some other signs to look out for in the sport and activity environment.

Possible barriers for disabled children when taking part in sport

The vast majority of disabled children and young people are able and willing to participate in sport when they have access to facilities and appropriately trained staff to support them.

Some common challenges that disabled children and young people may face when getting involved in sport include:

  • lack of positive early experiences in sport and physical activity
  • the sport or activities lack of understanding and awareness of how to be inclusive
  • limited opportunities and programmes for participation, training and competition
  • lack of accessible facilities or equipment
  • limited accessible transportation
  • limiting psychological and sociological factors including attitudes towards disability from parents, coaches, teachers and disabled people
  • limited availability to information and resources in accessible formats

For further information on protecting disabled children and young people, including the risks and vulnerability factors, legislation and guidance, visit the NSPCC Learning website.

Further resources

  • see our safeguarding deaf and disabled children resources by clicking on the tab above (or below, on mobile devices)
  • Coaching disabled people – UK Coaching's guidance on inclusive coaching
How to create a supportive environment

The first step to supporting disabled children and young people in your club or activity, is to create and promote an inclusive environment and culture for all children, parents, carers, staff and volunteers.

Everyone within your organisations should be made aware of your culture of acceptance, where people’s individuality is welcomed, valued, listened to and celebrated.

The benefits of inclusivity

Creating a safe and accepting space, allows children and young people to:

  • express themselves free from prejudice or judgement. This builds confidence and self-esteem
  • feel valued and reassured through positive re-enforcement
  • seek support and guidance if they should need it - support could also be extended to parents, carers, and peers

If you are part of a National Governing Body or Active Partnership, you may have an equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) champion or lead who can support with advice and guidance to develop a more inclusive club. EDI information should be included within your club or activities safeguarding policy, plan and procedures.

How to be an inclusive sport or activity

You have a responsibility to ensure that steps are taken to include and safeguard all d/Deaf and disabled children and young people taking part in your sport or activity.

As providers, it is important to ensure you have considered how you will help to make your organisation as inclusive as you possibly can, consider the following:


  • discuss with the individual their aspirations, needs and ability, and plan accordingly. Where possible, include adaptations to equipment or the activity
  • listen to the child and their parent or carer to find out how you can meet their needs and how you can best support them
  • address any required medications, personal and intimate care needs with the young person and their parents or carers, and complete a risk assessment and plan to support each child or young person
  • set realistic and challenging goals to help the individual achieve their full potential
  • allow more time for instructions and demonstrations (if required)
  • consider arranging a welcome session or buddying system so young people feel supported when starting at your club or activity
  • continue to have effective communication with the individual in case their needs or aspirations change in future

Understanding and awareness

  • don't make assumptions about what the individual can or cannot do, or what they understand
  • the implications of the individual’s disability for each activity, including both safety and practical considerations
  • have visible role models for children and young people with disabilities, use diverse imagery in your club facilities, on your website or social channels
  • ensure staff and volunteers support and understand how to effectively include all children and young people

Actions for your sport club or activity

  • provide a welcoming environment for all children and young people
  • focus on the child, not their disability
  • modify and adapt the activity to make it inclusive for all children taking part
  • provide spaces and use venues that are accessible
  • provide communication in a variety of formats such as visual and text versions. If applicable, videos which include subtitles or use accessibility tools to help make information more inclusive for all
  • have an inclusive culture and an environment that is free from discrimination
  • create opportunities for all children and young people to have safe and enjoyable experience in sport
  • to have an inclusion and equality policy or statement in place, as part of the Equality Act 2010

Actions for coaches, staff, and volunteer’s

  • undertake safeguarding training which highlights and raises awareness of the barriers within society for individuals with disabilities and the aspects which make individuals with disabilities more vulnerable
  • consider adaptations for coaching methods. For example the use of language, appropriate communication and levels of support 
  • ensure safeguarding information is available for all to access
  • be clear about how to raise or highlight any safeguarding concerns or worries
  • understand and work to your organisation’s safeguarding policies and procedures
  • always provide appropriate supervision of all children and young people

Creating a meaningful experience for all

Often people think that inclusion means everyone does everything in the same environment, with the same rules, the same equipment, and the same people, and this might not be the case.

Being inclusive is about creating something meaningful for everyone involved, so actually being inclusive means thinking about a spectrum of types of activity where people can be involved the the following:

  • an open session – rules, equipment and environment are the same for everyone
  • a parallel session – children are in the same environment but doing different sessions
  • a modified session – all children are in the same environment, but things are changed so that everyone gets something challenging from the session. For example, the rules are changed slightly for some individuals
  • a specific session – for individuals with certain functional abilities, or sport classifications

Activity Alliance has developed 10 principles for sports providers to follow to help make their sport or activity more inclusive and appealing for disabled athletes. To find out more and to watch the film about these 10 principles, visit Activity Alliance website.

Practical safeguarding steps

It’s essential to be clear about the practical safeguards that need to be in place to support and help keep disabled children and young people safe within your sport club, activity or organisation.

Having practical safeguards in place, help to create a safer, more inclusive, environment for all. Useful things to consider include the following.

Individual’s needs

Communication is key, the young person is the expert. They are more likely to know what their needs are and how they can best be supported. Meet with the young person and their parents or carers to understand and agree:

  • their needs, including personal or intimate care responsibilities
  • how the young person will be supported
  • the arrangements made to address both inclusion and safeguarding requirements

It’s important to consider children and young people with limited verbal communication and how you can best support their needs and facilitate participation within your sport or activity. Here are some tips for including children and young people with limited communication:

  • involve the child or young person and their parent or carer to help you understand and familiarise yourself with the individual, their wants, needs, likes and dislikes
  • pay attention to non-verbal cues, signals, and behaviours such as, facial expressions, body language, eye contact and any changes in emotions or behaviour
  • use other forms communication such as sign language or visual supports or communication cards or tools – these may be digital or physical resources

Personal and intimate care

Personal care responsibilities for children with disabilities should be discussed with them and their parents or carers as part of an initial discussion about their needs. The individual’s personal and intimate care responsibilities should be outlined within a policy, detailing if assistance is required. This policy should be signed off by the young person, parent or carer and organisation, then kept securely by the sports club or activity.

Whose responsibility is personal and intimate care?

It should be clear to everyone within your club or activity, the young person and their parents, that sports coaches and volunteers should not be involved in providing intimate care for any disabled participants. This care should always be the responsibility of the parents, carers or other identified carers.

A statement (which sits along your safeguarding policy), should outline any personal and intimate care responsibility should be included for each person who requires this care. This should include who is providing such care and support for the child or young person with disabilities (such as, their own carer or personal assistant) and can also include any medications and details for these too.

The NSPCC has developed further information about intimate care needs for disabled children and young on the NSPCC Learning website.


Some disabled children and young people may require medication. Your sports club or activity should have guidance in place on administering medication with your safeguarding policy which details:

  • any medications required
  • who is responsible for administering and when the medication should be taken, if applicable
  • how the medication is stored
  • how to record and track which medications have been given and when, so that medication is administered correctly

This should be agreed and signed off by the young person, parent or carer and either the designated safeguarding officer or senior sports coach.


A wide range of resources are available to help you make your sport or activity more accessible for all children and young people.

CPSU and NSPCC resources

Sport specific resources

Other useful resources