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Superheroes, children and technology

Copyrights: Tasnim News Agency / CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0); Siamand Rahman at Rio 2016

Superheroes, children and technology

There is a need to develop specific online tools which help this population to be physically active. Shirko Ahmadi tells us about the STAY-A project, which aims to do just that.

Siamand Rahman lifted three baby elephants (310 kg) in a horizontal position at the Rio Paralympic Games. Jason Smyth ran 100 meters with closed eyes in 10.46 seconds at London 2012. Rahman and Smyth are known as the strongest and fastest disabled superheroes in the world. Besides these great achievements for these Paralympic athletes, their motivational role on persons with disabilities is much more laudable.

Most research around para-sports focuses on elite para-athletes’ health and performance. In fact, little to no research has considered the impact of the Paralympic Games on the perceptions and motivations of children with disabilities.

Many children with disabilities, unfortunately, engage in low levels of physical activity. Children with disabilities have faced isolation and exclusion from physical activity and sports even before the COVID-19 pandemic. While plenty of online tools have been developed to motivate people without disabilities to be physically active in restricted environments, or offer solutions to solve health and social problems, the same has not been done for persons with disabilities, who have been largely ignored.  

There is a need to develop specific online tools which help this population to be physically active. Therefore, using digital technologies to mediate effective communication among Paralympic athletes and children with disabilities can be a magical motivation for children with disabilities to participate in physical activity programs.

This was the idea of the STAY-A project. In 2020, the Global Design Challenge was launched, aimed at finding solutions to the challenges faced in sport and physical activity as a result of COVID-19. One of the most interesting ideas to come out of this challenge was the STAY-A project, which proposed to implement and develop an application aiming at motivating children, youth and adults with disabilities, by allowing them to engage with Paralympic athletes and coaches in physical activities and sports.

As Donna Haraway says "The machine is not an ‘it’ to be animated, worshipped, and dominated. The machine is us...an aspect of our embodiment. We can be responsible for machines; they do not dominate or threaten us. We are responsible for boundaries; we are they". To create an environment whereby this type of barrier is removed, further research and projects are needed in education, planning and implementation of physical activity programmes for children with disabilities.

Shirko Ahmadi has a PhD in Adapted Physical Education and is associated wiwth the Department of Adapted Physical Education at the School of Physical Education in the University of Campinas, Brazil.

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

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Monday, November 23, 2020 - 15:46