Invictus Viseu: A path to inclusion through sport
Invictus Viseu: A path to inclusion through sport
Invictus Viseu is a non-profit association with a mission to promote sport for all, located in the district of Viseu in Portugal.
Invictus Viseu is a non-profit association with a mission to promote sport for all, located in the district of Viseu in Portugal. The association was constituted in 2017, after conducting a survey on the types of sport that should be provided to the community in Viseu.
The data from the survey showed very little diversity of sports was being offered to people with disabilities. We thus put in major efforts in developing sport programs that improve the well-being of persons with disabilities.
Since 2017, we have developed the following sport programs:
- Regular sports services, focused on child motricity, adapted physical exercise, and adaptation to the aquatic environment
- Adapted sports, focused on adapted athletics, polybat, wheelchair handball, adapted swimming, adapted karate
- Physical exercise programs directed to specific groups, like prisoners and people with mental illnesses
Overall, these programs aim to provide regular access to the practice of physical activity, accompanied by individuals specialized in sport and trained to work with specific groups of people (for example older people, people with special needs, etc.).
This is accomplished through a set of multi-sector partnerships that we have established with local and national entities. As a result, we have many diverse resources available at hand, which are essential to the implementation of the sport programs.
Our strategy also relies on the assignment of roles between other partners, which allows for various groups of people to participate in a diverse range of sports programs available to the Viseu community.
Since 2017, attracting and retaining more people with special needs for sports has been a challenge for Invictus Viseu. The first issue we face is that families and potential participants are not aware of the benefits and importance of sport. To get around this, we partner with schools, who assume an important role. It is at schools that most children have their first contact with sport.
Therefore, school premises must have the human resources specialized in adapted sport, to allow children with specific needs to engage in sport from an early age and their active engagement in physical education classes. In this area, the association has developed the pilot project “Inclusão Ativa” (active inclusion), where Invictus Viseu’s sport technicians go to partners schools to integrate the project and create strategies and minimum conditions for the establishment of inclusive physical and sport activities, in conjunction with physical education teachers.
Providing physical education professionals with theoretical and practical information gives them the basic training needed for engaging in the field of sport for people with disabilities.
Access to funding
Another issue we have faced is the difficulty in accessing funding applications for the development of adapted physical and sporting activities. Funding is usually scarce and the application processes can be bureaucratic and lengthy. Applications should be made less complex and bureaucratic, and funding agencies should improve their response time.
Engaging sport federations
We also found that only a few sport federations have incentives for basic sport clubs to be inclusive and invest in adapted sport modalities. Some incentive measures that federations could adopt include waiving registration fees for disabled athletes and reducing or exempting club membership for inclusive clubs.
Further, Invictus Viseu has found scarce positive discrimination criteria for provision of material resources for the practice of adapted sports. Federations should loan adapted sport materials (like sport wheelchairs) which are essential for the initiation of a sport for people with disabilities.
Further, work needs to be done by national and international sport organizations to standardize and modernize sports clubs and associations to be more inclusive, including the training of human resources. Further, incentives should be created to ensure that sport managers who have the capacity to implement inclusive and sustainable sports models in the medium- to long-term in their communities.
It is also very important that, moving forward, we increase the number of sport facilities and infrastructure which is accessible for people with disabilities, including being located conveniently and having practice schedules for disabled athletes. These are the barriers that athletes currently face, and they need to be dismantled to allow them to excel.
To make sports more inclusive for people with disabilities, it is necessary to raise awareness among political leaders, sports leaders, school communities, family members of people with disabilities, and society at large. It is important to change people’s mindsets and create and apply effective measures to include people with disabilities in sport.
The event "Jornadas Inclusivas de Viseu” (Inclusive Days of Viseu), organized annually by Invictus Viseu, in partnership with several local and national entities, of tangible action being taken to make positive change in society. Besides the objective of sensitizing the whole Viseu community, the event aims at providing a day of conventional and adapted sports activities for people with and without disabilities, in an inclusive, fun, and accessible environment for all participants. In 2019, this event was highlighted as an example of “Inclusive Good Practices” in the most recent document prepared by the Government of Portugal titled "Practical Guide: The Rights of People with Disabilities in Portugal".
Nicole Monteiro is the Director and Sport Technician at Invictus Viseu.
Marta Matos is the Direct and Sport Technician and Invictus Viseu.
[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]