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Making sport accessible for all: Perspectives from Guatemala

Copyrights: United Play International

Making sport accessible for all: Perspectives from Guatemala

United Play International is striving to make the sporting world more accessible for all. Juan Diego and Natalia Mosquera report from their programs in Guatemala.

The world is already a challenging place for people – now imagine not having a leg, not being able to understand what someone is trying to teach you, or not being able to communicate your feelings and thoughts.

As stated by the WHO in 2019, 15% of the people in the world have some disability, and face daily challenges and difficulties in life. They also face discrimination, lack of motivation, an inaccessible world and limited opportunities to succeed.  

At United Play International, we believe sport has the power to change this perception that people have about disability and can make people with disabilities believe in a better future for themselves. Currently, not many sporting organizations include sport for people with disabilities. The sport for development sector should strive to provide more inclusive programming and better opportunities, yet we do not see such changes being made.  

Our story of success and motivation

My name is Juan Diego, and I was born with the congenital absence of my fibula; hence, I wear a prosthetic on my right leg. Thanks to the support of my parents and because they involved me in sport since I was little, I overcame my disability throughout sport. I have lived the power of sport, and I am sure I would not be the person I am today without sport playing such a pivotal role in my life.

I compete in Basque Pelota, a lesser known sport in the world. In fact, there is no category for people with disabilities in this sport, and so I compete against able-bodied participants. This motivates me, because I know that if people with disabilities, like me, want something, with effort and sacrifice we can achieve it. We can then also become role models, not only for people with disabilities, but for all people. We can then leverage this power that sport has on people with disabilities to create a larger impact in our communities, leading by example.

We can encourage sport for development organizations to become more inclusive, as United Play is doing. We are an organization that is committed to providing free and easily accessible resources to sport advocates (teachers, coaches and community activists) working to make sport more inclusive at the ground level.

Initially, our manuals and resources were not adapted to be inclusive for people with disabilities. Hence, we created our inclusion project, in which we are adapting all our games and activities in the manuals, adding modifications so that people with disabilities can also participate.

In this project, we will also train community leaders on disability and inclusion, so that they have the tools to improve their communities and manage the delivery of these adapted activities. To ensure that our work is relevant, we have created a monitoring tool that can collect data on the improvements made by the participants.

While significant change and impact might be far away, we know that by leading by example and motivating people, with the correct tools and education, we are changing the world, a little at a time.

Juan Diego Blas is the Head of Sport for Social Development at the Guatemalan Olympic Committee and the Co-Founder of United Play International. He has a Master’s degree in Sport Organizations Management. He is also an athlete of Basque Pelota and a United Nations Youth Leader. 

Natalia Mosquera is the Executive Director of United Play Guatemala, and a volunteer at Special Olympics Guatemala. She has a postgraduate in Social Development and Peacebuilding through Sports.

[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]


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Juan Diego Blas & Natalia Mosquera


Friday, November 27, 2020 - 18:55