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Developing sport participation for persons with a disability

Copyrights: Sport and Citizenship

Developing sport participation for persons with a disability

In France and Europe in general, the level of participation in sport among people with a disability remains well below that of the rest of the population. Our think tank looks into the question of sport’s accessibility for people with a disability. Below are a number of ideas to help in developing this.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 15% of the world’s population is living with some form of disability, and this proportion will only increase as the population ages. Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) recognises their right to enjoy access to cultural activities and to participate in recreational, leisure and sporting activities. Personal fulfilment, health and well-being and the social bond are at the heart of these ideas.

In spite of this, many people with disabilities still do not have access to physical activities and sport, which are a vital link in social life and in a community. It is not just that facilities are often unsuitable, but public transport and town planning too are rarely designed with these persons in mind. Additionally, what is available from federations, clubs, and the sport marketing sector is not always in line with needs and expectations, particularly when it comes to non-competitive sport.

We therefore need to examine the question of accessibility in our societies, and the public’s level of knowledge and awareness, without forgetting that there is a separation between the management of disability and cultural, sporting, social and educational activities which still leads to compartmentalisation in public policies (and policies in associations).

Examining civil society and stakeholders in sport

The parasport federations hold a key position, with their several decades of experience and expertise in the conditions necessary for safe, adapted practice, and also because there are a certain number of specific disciplines (power wheelchair, goalball, etc). The benefits of practice among peers should not be underestimated either. The challenge is rather to work on the many offers available and their complementarity, so that every person can take part in their chosen sport in the best possible conditions.

Mixed ability sport should also be developed, inspired by schemes set up in schools. Some schemes offer sporting activities in teams made up of disabled and non-disabled young people. However, in ordinary settings, the objectives of inclusion have not been attained. Too many children are still excluded from taking part.

Putting in place bridges between the field of sport and the medical-social sector is another possible vector for adapted sporting activity within establishments. Working for the recognition of sport in the institutional projects in establishments is vital, as are the training and professionalisation of clubs and host structures.

It is important, therefore, to involve families and aids as much as possible in discovering and following sporting activities, for people of every age with a disability, and to raise awareness of the benefits of sport, for personal health and well-being.

At whatever level, sport can become an outstanding force for resilience and fulfilling potential. The inclusion aspect is recognised as being of benefit to all individuals. Kindness, tolerance, respect and solidarity with the values of sport: these can, and must, be made real in projects for shared physical activities and sport.

Sylvain Landa is the editorial director of the think tank Sport and Citizenship.


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Sylvain Landa


Thursday, November 26, 2020 - 06:29