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Braille Shot (Tiro en Braille): A pioneer university SDP project

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Braille Shot (Tiro en Braille): A pioneer university SDP project

A student created project at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico sees both abled and disabled students participate in sporting activities which targets three of the most common problems facing Mexican students: drop-out, suicide, and gender and ability-based imbalances.

As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, it becomes more difficult to talk about the novelty of sport for development and peace (SDP). The first two decades of the century have witnessed the increased institutionalization of SDP within the United Nations system, as well as its heyday in the academic world.

There are 1023 organizations on the Swiss platform sportanddev.org (as of the end of October 2020). It is possible to identify certain patterns: a significant share of organizations (314 organizations, or 30.69%), use soccer, and 72.29% of these 314 organizations use soccer as the exclusive sport for conducting their initiatives. There are 141 organizations (13.78% of organizations) that make some reference to universities within their websites and/or displayed documents.

Regarding people with disabilities, 321 organizations (31.37%) work with people with disabilities and 37 of such organizations (3.61%) work exclusively with people with disabilities. Lastly, there are 77 initiatives that have worked with either the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and/or with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which equals 7.52% of all organizations.

If we filter the organizations that do not use soccer, that mention universities, that work with people with disabilities, and those that include either the SDGs or the MDGs within their agendas, we find out that just 8 organizations (0.78% of all organizations) overlap somehow with our organization.

After reviewing the organizations contained in the sportanddev.org platform, we may safely conclude that organizations and initiatives working significantly with university students are scarce. Moreover, university students themselves do not appear to be a significant target group of SDP organizations and projects.

At University of Guanajuato, in central Mexico, Braille Shot is a ground-breaking initiative that was started in the summer of 2019. We acknowledge the power of sport as a tool of social transformation, but we are also critical about some of its shortcomings.

A three-component – teaching, research, and practical sport activity – project was launched, trying to give response to at least three common problems that currently Mexican students face: drop-out, suicide, and gender and ability-based imbalances. Additionally, in order to ensure sound normative and policy foundations, it was decided that whatever sporting activity resulted from the project would have to align with Mexican legislation (Mexican Constitution, the Federal Law on Physical Culture and Sport, as well as the 2019-2024 National Development Plan), as well as to be rationally and purposely attempting to comply with the greatest amount of the 169 targets stated in the Sustainable Development Goals contained in the 2030 Agenda.

During the 2019 fall term, a call for proposals was launched, calling for students of Universidad de Guanajuato’s to design a sporting activity which fully complied with the following criteria:

  • At least 50% of participants of each team must be women
  • Each team must include students from at least two different faculties.
  • The resulting sporting activity must be suitable to be played in an all-gendered, all-ability tournament (i.e., there would be no separated women and men’s tournament and there would be no para-tournament)
  • The sporting activity must be suitable to be played by people with different capabilities
  • The sporting activity shall not use any materials or inputs made from fossil fuels
  • The sporting activity shall be inspired by one or more Pre-Columbian game(s), and if financially possible, uniforms shall be knitted by local (municipal) or national (Mexican) artisans, preferably those working with indigenous embroideries

The inclusion of people with disabilities was a requirement in the call for proposals for the project; however, it was up to the students to decide how exactly and under which terms they would be included. The winning team decided that the 2019-2020 disability to be addressed was vision impairment/blindness.

Of course, there are structural challenges that our project faces when working to include persons with different capabilities in sport. The primary challenge is the lack (or difficulty) of accessible infrastructure for the sporting activity to take place. Another problem is to determine the best way to respond, as practitioners, to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, rather than acting based on our assumptions.

In Braille Shot, we have come up with different ideas which makes the sporting activity accessible to all. This includes:

  • Requiring all players to be blind-folded, regardless of impairment, hence leveling the playing field for all
  • Designing balls with sleigh bells inside, to address the needs of those with vision impairments
  • Placing silence requirements in the rulebook, to allow the players to hear the ball clearly

The value of our project is not the resulting sport, Braille Shot, per se, but the purposeful methodology that has led to its creation. Following this path, many sporting activities for differently abled people can be developed, taking into consideration specific geographical, cultural and economic conditions.

Daniel Añorve Añorve is a professor of International Relations at the Department of Government and Political Studies at Universidad de Guanajuato and the project leader.

Luis Jozabad Gutiérrez Herrera is a senior student of Political Science at Universidad de Guanajuato and a research assistant of the project.

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Friday, November 20, 2020 - 13:00

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