Blog about Step Change Studios award nomination at the Sport and Recreation Alliance Awards 2024.
We are thrilled to announce that our Associate Members Step Change Studios have been nominated for the Sport and Recreation Alliance Community Awards 2024 in the Diversity and Inclusion category.
Step Change Studios was established in 2017 to help provide opportunities for disabled people to be active through dance.
Since its foundation, Step Change Studios has delivered over 3,000 sessions to a pan-disability population, all the way from two-year-olds to 102-year-olds. The organisation supports people of all abilities and engages them where there is the greatest need, whether that be care homes, hospitals, day centres, SEN schools and colleges, or community settings.
We caught up with the Founder of Step Change Studios Dr Rashmi Becker MBE earlier this week ahead of the awards.
We asked Rashmi about how the team felt after being nominated for the award. ‘It is fantastic to be nominated for the award and we feel proud to be recognised for our work. Despite the constant changing and challenging environment, it is so satisfying when you see the positive impact of dance on people we support. I set up Step Change Studios due to limited participation opportunities and wanting to help remove barriers, so it is really humbling to receive this recognition’.
Rashmi mentioned her personal connection to her work and emphasised the importance of diversity and inclusion more broadly: ‘As guardian to my older brother who has Autism, I have seen the positive impact of physical activity on his quality of life. During the pandemic, disabled people experienced additional challenges, but we also became more aware of the role of intersection as disabled people from certain ethnic backgrounds, women, and people from low socio-economic groups experience further barriers.’ As a result, Step Change Studios has been tailoring programmes to address these multiple inequalities.
A key part of Rashmi’s role is working with activity providers to share better practice and provide training and resources. ‘We have delivered workshops for fitness and dance providers – coproduced with disabled people, and we have produced a range of practical resources and tools that support inclusive practice. Many of the fears and apprehensions professionals have about engaging disabled people are more often perceived rather than real. Dance and fitness professionals will already adapt their coaching to suit people with different levels of skill and ability; the same principles apply to adapting activity for disabled people’.
When speaking of promoting a culture of inclusivity, Rashmi said: ‘Some of our teachers had not previously worked with disabled people but alongside being qualified dance teachers, they have the important skills of being good communicators, perceptive, responsive, and knowing how to build trust and open dialogue. This enables them to understand how best to support people’s potential and ensure they have a positive experience.
Rashmi added: Disability is often separated as an additional area of study rather than being integrated with mainstream study. There are 16 million disabled people in the UK (24% of the population) – the sector needs to ensure its workforce has the competence and confidence to support disabled people’s participation.’
There have been many highlights for Step Change Studios over the years. Rashmi is especially proud of the ‘Dance Dosti’ programme for blind and partially sighted people of South Asian heritage. She said: ‘During the pandemic, we created over 120 short audio-described workouts in 4 different languages (Hindi, Gujrati, Bengali and English). The workouts included both standing and seated options. We also ran a series of face-to-face programmes in areas of London with higher South Asian populations. Following the success of this initiative, we replicated the programme in Birmingham working with local partners. The programme culminated in participants performing in the Opening Ceremony of the Blind Sport World Games at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall in front of 1,000 people and was featured in a range of media including Channel 4 News’.
When asked about Step Change Studios’ plans for 2024, Rashmi has an exciting year ahead: ‘We run a ballroom dance class for people with sight loss and they will be competing in the Open Worlds competition in Blackpool which has created a category for blind and partially sighted people for the first time. Our students are excited to be dancing on the floor of the famous Tower Ballroom. We will also be running a series of competitions for disabled people which is focused on engaging people at a grassroots level who have limited opportunities to participate in dance. We’re looking forward to working with a range of partners to deliver new programmes in schools, colleges, daycentre, leisure centres, care homes and other places and spaces to bring dance to more people.’
We wish Rashmi and the team the best of luck at the awards. For more information on the incredible programmes which Step Change Studios run head over to: https://www.stepchangestudios.com/