Including persons with disability in sport
The PLAY’In Together programme: Towards a better inclusion of people with disabilities through sports play
The European project PLAY'In Together aims to take action in favour of a greater inclusion of children and adolescents with disabilities through the promotion, at the European level, of Olympic and Paralympic values through sports games.
PLAY International is a French non-political NGO founded in 1999. Its main objective is to promote sport and play as tools for education, integration and empowerment of youth and children. Since its creation, PLAY has deployed programs that mobilize sport as a lever for education and social inclusion in 15 countries, benefiting nearly 850,000 children.
Since 2016 and after the success of a pilot project carried out with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) and UNICEF, aiming to contribute to children’s education and address the contemporary challenge of peace and inclusion through the universal Olympic values (OV) of respect, friendship and excellence, PLAY decided to get directly involved in the inclusion of children with disabilities through sport.
PLAY International has, for the last 2 years, been involved as the coordinating organization of the European project PLAY'In Together. Implemented over two and a half years (from the beginning of 2019 to the third trimester of 2021), the project aims to take action in favour of a greater inclusion of children and adolescents with disabilities through the promotion, at the European level, of Olympic and Paralympic values through sports games.
Thus, and in accordance with the method developed and used for all PLAY international programs, the main focus of PLAY'In Together's action consists in training professionals from the educational community, who supervise children from 6 to 12 years old, in specifically created content dedicated to the target audience.
More precisely, the project is articulated around 3 phases:
- A first phase focused on changing mindset on disabilities (with non-disabled children) during which the objective was to train facilitators and teachers in sessions of socio-sports activities designed to bring about a change in the perception of disabilities, and thus generate more inclusive behaviours
- A second phase (currently in progress) aimed at encouraging children with disabilities to feel legitimate to practice sport and to make them aware of their potential. Educators from specialized institutions are targeted during this phase
- A last phase focused on inclusion by creating opportunities for mixed sports games between children without and with disabilities
In total, PLAY’IN Together aims to train 90 specialized educators, 270 facilitators and 448 teachers in the deployment of socio-sports sessions focusing on the themes described above. They will then be led to set up these activities for the benefit of 20,200 children aged between 6 and 12 years old.
Undoubtedly, a good practice that emerges first from this project is due to its nature since it is a project carried by a consortium of stakeholders from different sectors, associated here in a logic of complementarity. PLAY’IN Together indeed brings together 8 partners from all over Europe that share the common characteristics of having a very high level of knowledge and competencies in the field of sport and a particular interest on the question of disability.
PLAY International and the partners involved in the project believe it is from this complementarity and diversity that innovative practices could be developed. In our programme in particular, three types of partners are gathered through the consortium: an academic partner with an expertise in leading research and diagnosis on issues relating to disabilities, five operational partners with leverage and experience to carry field activities and three institutional partners with strong leadership and dissemination capabilities to ensure the visibility and advocacy of the project on a European scene.
Another idea or good practice that we would like to highlight and promote is the innovative dimension that runs through the project at different scales. In addition to the fact that, at the European level today, too few actors use sport as a prevention and awareness tool and that it is essential in our eyes to use sport not only as a mainly occupational/competitive purposes, the PLAY'IN Together project stands out for its innovative pedagogical engineering, based on two proven methodologies.
The first, entitled Education through sport (ETS) is a pedagogical method developed by the Bulgarian Sport Development Association (BSDA) and European specialists. It has proven to address communication problems, promote human rights understanding, and create feelings of community belonging.
The second, entitled Playdagogy, is PLAY International’s modelized pedagogical method. It is innovative since it was developed in a development context (in Bolivia) and then modelled in France. While many projects develop their solutions first at headquarters and then deploy them abroad, PLAY International wanted to reverse this logic to share expertise and local experiences to be then modeled at the headquarters of the association. The method relies on traditional sports games to convey thematic awareness messages. A Playdagogy session lasts approximately 45-60 minutes, and is structured in 3 stages that each constitute opportunities for the child to get an interest in a given theme:
- A typical session relies on physical activities (handball, basketball, etc.) or traditional games (cat and mouse, etc.). Children play, enjoy, and memorize rules while practicing a physical activity
- Vocabulary and symbols are then integrated in the activity to familiarize the child with the theme. These parallels between a play-based and real-life situation will then be discussed
- At the end of a session, a debate is organized to accompany the child in thinking, expressing and assimilating the awareness messages of the game. Key preventive messages are transmitted and discussed.
The combination of these two pedagogical methods, in addition to the scientific material provided by our academic partner, has been very interesting in the co-creation of the socio-sports sessions.
However, the addressed specific theme led us to make the following observation that it was difficult to establish a common lexicon of terms used in the different European countries to talk about disability. After having tried to build a common typology, the partners chose to agree on a change of scientific approach during the project.
Thus, a last recommendation that we would make to organizations wishing to set up a project for the inclusion of people with disabilities through sport would be to favor an approach not according to the types of disabilities but according to the necessary adaptations to be implemented in the games to favor their participation and well-being.
Launch of the Yd-Maj For Equal Play Program for the inclusion of youth with disabilities through sport
TIBU Maroc has launched an inclusive sports program aimed at disabled young people in Morocco.
The role of sport in the inclusion of youth with disabilities
For many years now, sport has been seen as a vehicle for the sociability and integration of marginalized communities, due to its non-discrimination and its capacity to offer spaces for inclusion and bodily expression. This capacity to provide innovative solutions, particularly in the social field, has given sport an important place in national policies and in many development projects led by civil society.
UNESCO estimates that 93 million children under the age of 14, or 5.1% of the world's children, live with moderate to severe disabilities. 80% of them live in a developing country.
In Morocco, according to the latest census conducted in September 2014 by the Higher Planning Commission (HCP), the number of people with disabilities amounts to 1.7 million people, or 5.1% of the population.
The same survey reveals that 66.5% (more than 1.1 million people with disabilities) have no education at all, compared to 35.3% among people without disabilities. This situation affects more women (79.5%) than men (53.4%), according to HCP's data, and 86.6% are inactive.
According to a report by the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, the conceptual model in place in Morocco, on the inclusion of people with disabilities, is outdated and contributes to the persistence of cultural, social and economic barriers, which prevent the establishment of an environment that is conducive to the effective social participation of people with disabilities.
TIBU Maroc, as the main actor of social innovation through sport in Morocco, has chosen, for more than 9 years, to make the strength of sport its ally to offer innovative solutions to social issues, including education, empowerment of young people, girls in rural areas but also the socio-economic inclusion of young people in NEET situations.
Social innovation through sport in the service of disability
In 2015 and thanks to the support of the U.S. Embassy, TIBU Maroc launched its Wheelchair Basketball School for young people with disabilities. This program has enabled more than 30 young people from vulnerable neighbourhoods of Casablanca (Mdina Lqdima, Sidi Maarouf, Sidi Moumen) to follow an annual program rich in activities focused on strengthening motor, cognitive and social-emotional skills through basketball, improving self-perception and leadership.
In early 2020, an overall evaluation of the project focused on 4 major challenges faced by young people with disabilities:
- Difficulty in accessing education, training and employment due to the low level of resources deployed, but also due to negative attitudes that are often close to discrimination on the grounds of disability, which makes it difficult to integrate young people with disabilities into society
- Insufficient life skills among young people with disabilities and lack of qualifications, which hinders access to employment opportunities
- Very low access to adapted physical activities in the school or community setting, which further increases the inequalities and exclusion of young people with disabilities
- Need for support for parents, especially mothers, in order to create a positive, empowering and balanced (neither over-protected nor abandoned) environment for young people
YD-Maj For Equal Play
In order to meet these challenges, TIBU Maroc launches, on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a new program: YD-Maj (which, in Arabic, means ‘to include’) For Equal Play, for the inclusion of young people with disabilities aged between 10 and 16 years old. This program aims to contribute to the social inclusion of young people with disabilities through sport, through an integrated and multidimensional program that offers support for young people, focused on building self-esteem, changing the perception of young people with disabilities and preparing them for the job market.
The program also targets the parents of young people with disabilities, particularly the mothers, in order to support them on positive education, the creation of a positive environment within the family and also to alleviate the mental burden related to the care of a child with a disability.
Lastly, the program offers spaces for innovation and creativity through sport to set up awareness-raising projects around disability. Namely, we will launch a comic book made by the beneficiaries that advocates for inclusive schools in Morocco.
The discrimination suffered by children and young people with disabilities puts them in a situation of isolation and complete dependence on their family members, especially their mothers. Through workshops and fun and sport activities, the Yd-Maj program aims to break the isolation of these young people by promoting inclusive education and changing the perception of disability. When they play, the young people mix and need to be part of a group. Sport is a way for them to feel valued and to learn about life through self-improvement.
Through 3 sessions per week, the youngsters as well as their mothers will benefit from:
- Adapted physical activity sessions (basketball, handball and yoga), 3 sports selected by the TIBU Maroc team to work on concentration, leadership, self-esteem and teamwork
- Discussion groups which support parents in positive education and to strengthen the bond between youth and family
- Workshop on the key elements for the success of a balanced relationship between parents and young people with disabilities
- Inspiring stories of the role parents have played in the success of youth with disabilities
Further, workshops on important 21st century skills as well as on the balanced nutrition within a Moroccan context have also been planned.
Impact on the beneficiaries:
- Changing perceptions of disability among youth and their parents
- Improvement of self-esteem among youth
- Openness and participation of young people in activities outside the family setting
- Improved ability of young people to speak openly about their disability and to advocate for their rights at national and international events
- Acquisition of life skills to facilitate access to the job market
The Calgary Adapted Hub
The Calgary Adapted Hub represents a first of its kind in Canada where a consortium of academic institutions, municipal recreation and sport programming stakeholders work together to ensure excellence in adapted physical activity that includes, programming, advocacy and scholarship.
One of the greatest challenges in Calgary (and likely elsewhere) for persons with a disability and participation in sport, recreation and leisure is knowing who to call and what programs are available. For insiders there would seem to be a plethora of options that are, for the most part, well organized, fun and affordable. The siloed nature, however, of the organizations whether it be by disability category, sport, age or model of inclusion makes it difficult, if not impossible, for those outside of the inner circle to know where to start.
This issue prompted a number of collaborators to create the Calgary Adapted Hub – Powered by Jumpstart. The Hub represents a first of its kind in Canada where a consortium of academic institutions, municipal recreation and sport programming stakeholders work together to ensure excellence in adapted physical activity that includes, programming, advocacy and scholarship.
Jumpstart is a national charity whose largest benefactor is Canadian Tire Corporation (CTC) – one of Canada’s leading retailers with over 1,800 locations across Canada operating in the automotive, hardware, sports, leisure and housewares sectors. Since 2013 CTC has been a highly engaged sponsor of the Canadian Paralympic Committee and in 2017 it fully pledged to back Jumpstart’s Inclusive Play Project – a $40M commitment to inclusive recreational infrastructure, programming and coaching education.
The seven collaborators that formed the Calgary Adapted Hub comprised two umbrella organizations including Sport Calgary, which represents all of the amateur sport organizations in the City, and the City of Calgary Recreation department. The two Universities with Faculty leads from the Kinesiology / Health and Physical Education Departments were also included, as were three large multi-sport recreation centres (Winsport, VIVO and Repsol Sports Centre). The two Universities and three facility partners had already set out to independently organize adapted programs, but these were relatively small, often improvised pursuits and executed in the siloed nature noted earlier.
The Hub concept will revolutionize adapted program design and delivery in several ways. For example, the human resource infrastructure to intentionally facilitate collaboration is built into the design of the hub. This includes a program manager who can now work with each partner to coordinate programming and explore program innovation, and a part-time Research and Knowledge Translation coordinator to assess existing programs and ensure evidence-based program designs and modifications.
All 7 partners also worked with the Abilities Centre to work through the LEAD (Leading Equitable and Accessible Delivery) process, which is designed to identify capacity gaps that could prevent Hub partners from embedding inclusion and accessibility into strategic planning, daily operations, program environments, and organizational culture.
The Hub concept is still in its earliest days and we will likely encounter many obstacles, but we are optimistic that this will enable persons with disabilities and their families to access more and better programs. We still don’t have an official program website but stay tuned and please let us know how we can perhaps support the creation of your own Hub!
David Legg is a Professor at Mount Royal University in the Department pf Health and Physical Education and Chair of the Calgary Adapted Hub – Powered by Jumpstart.
Marco Di Buono is AVP, Programs & Operations at Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities.
Enabling disabled people to assert their rights
Disabled people are people. At CAFE we promote the social model of disability – that a person isn’t disabled by any conditions but rather by the barriers placed in front of them by society.
Each year on 3 December, organisations and industries across the world come together to celebrate International Day of Disabled People – a celebration of the diverse roles disabled people can play within the wider society and a show of solidarity with the estimated 1.85 billion disabled people living today.
The day provides a great opportunity to reflect on the improvements that we have seen to ensure more disabled people can take their rightful places across society. It should also be a time for us all to reflect on how much work there is still to be done.
Disabled people are people. At CAFE we promote the social model of disability – that a person isn’t disabled by any conditions but rather by the barriers placed in front of them by society. This could be an environmental barrier such as a building accessible only by steps, a communication barrier such as information provided in inaccessible formats, institutional barriers such as a company without an inclusive recruitment policy, or, and perhaps most destructive, attitudinal barriers.
An attitudinal barrier can often be the most difficult barrier to remove, as it requires changing a person’s mindset and innate belief. Whether their intentions are good or not, too many people still consider disabled people to be charitable cases who need help and pity.
Now it may be the case that, from time to time, a disabled person might require some help and support. But this is also true of non-disabled people, and this should not define a person’s perception of disability.
We at CAFE believe that sport has the ability to change lives, creating memories that will last a lifetime and ensuring disabled people are a key part of the global sporting landscape as fans, employees, volunteers and leaders. This means that everyone has equal opportunities to contribute in an accessible, inclusive and welcoming environment.
Disabled people are at the heart of all we do, and we support the further empowerment of disabled people through live sport. Disabled fans should have the opportunity, as all other fans do, to act as self-advocates and represent their own experiences and requirements to their clubs.
Since we were established in 2009, CAFE has supported the creation and development of user-led disabled supporters associations (DSAs), taking a pan-disability approach to ensure that the voices of disabled people are heard.
Thanks to the increasing number of DSAs worldwide, disabled fans are making positive and inclusive change in their local clubs, national leagues and global tournaments.
DSAs provide disabled people with a platform to actively express their opinions, share experiences and influence decision-making. They can raise wider awareness amongst their fellow fans and encourage clubs to open a dialogue with their disabled fans that may not already exist.
Disabled people shouldn’t just be told what they can and cannot have – they must be seen as equals and enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else.
The wider empowerment of disabled people can only lead to improved decision-making and true inclusion. The phrase ‘nothing about us, without us’ rings true – disabled people have the right to represent their own interests and deserve the same opportunities as everyone else within society.
We encourage stakeholders across the industry to take the opportunity of International Day of Disabled People to open a dialogue with their disabled fans. Find out first-hand what works and what could be better, and how you can help to remove the barriers that ‘disable’ some of your most loyal and passionate supporters.
If you would like to find out more about the creation or development of DSAs, please visit the disabled supporters section of the CAFE website. You can also visit www.cafefootball.eu to find out more about our wider works.
The power of sport for inclusion: Including persons with disabilities in sport
Diversity, equity, and inclusion have become the elements that define sport in the 2020s. This special collection assembled by sportanddev on including persons with disabilities in sport brings that third element – inclusion – into focus.
Sport has the potential to be a catalyst for inclusion and people who work in sport have a responsibility to make this happen. Sport is better when its purpose and direction aim toward inclusion. Inclusion in and through sport means providing every person full respect, dignity, value and belonging in any roles they may play - athlete, coach, official, administrator, or spectator. Inclusion encompasses all populations across race, culture, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability. Sport for inclusion matters because it promotes the values, ideals and vision for acceptance, human rights and non-discrimination. Sport for inclusion questions and challenges the very notion of exclusion.
Inclusion only becomes inclusion when persons with disabilities are not just present but engaged in meaningful ways. Persons with disabilities need to be a part of all inclusion initiatives in and through sport. When sport is not fully inclusive of persons with disabilities, it neglects a critical population that has a rightful and central place in the sporting environment.
By including persons with disabilities, sport also provides opportunities for innovation and recognizes the range of diversity within the disability community itself. Sport can provide a variety of mainstream and disability-specific opportunities across the inclusion spectrum for persons with disabilities.
Furthermore, including persons with disabilities can be approached from the perspectives of empowerment, innovation and opportunity while challenging the status quo of pity, stigma and fear. When sport includes persons with disabilities, it becomes transformative not just for the participants, but also for families, coaches, administrators, spectators and event or program sponsors.
When we design sport for inclusion we begin to recognize and realize the full potential of sport for all. It is important to note that when we design environments for persons with disabilities we are often designing for everyone. The framework of sport for inclusion, and not sport for exclusion, is critical to the sustainability and the future of sport and particularly sport for development and peace. The power of sport for inclusive environments works to create the vision of a better world for all.
We would like to thank all the people who contributed to this special collection focusing on including persons with disabilities in sport. Insights poured in from around the world showcasing the amazing work people are doing to build full inclusion of persons with disabilities in and through sport.
In a world at times beset with division and disarray, what people are doing in everyday ways illustrates that we are all one and true change happens from the ground up. The work we have read about in their voices provides hope for a better, more inclusive society. While some people may say “Hope is not a strategy”, hope powered by the hard work of everyday people is the equation to create a more inclusive world. Persons with disabilities have much to offer and sport provides a vehicle to make their powerful presence known.
Eli A. Wolff directs the Power of Sport Lab, a platform to fuel and magnify creativity, diversity, connection and leadership through sport. Eli is also an instructor with the Sport Management program at the University of Connecticut, the Sport Leadership program at UMass-Boston, and is co-founder and advisor to the Sport and Society initiative at Brown University. His work has been at the intersection of research, education and advocacy in and through sport, with a focus on sport and social justice, diversity, disability and inclusion. Eli has co-founded Disability in Sport International, Athletes for Human Rights, the Olympism Project, and Mentoring for Change.
Mary A. Hums, Ph.D. is a Professor of Sport Administration at the University of Louisville. Hums has co-authored/co-edited 5 Sport Management textbooks, over 150 articles and book chapters and made over 200 presentations to various scholarly associations both in the United States and abroad. Her main research interest is policy development in sport organizations, especially in regard to inclusion of people with disabilities and also sport and human rights.
Challenges to the promotion of sport participation among disabled people in South Korea: The approach of the Korea Paralympic Committee
Inhyang Choi explains the challenges to including disabled people in sports in South Korea, and the ways in which the Korea Paralympic Committee has been working to address these challenges.
Despite the benefits of physical activity and sport, many disabled people lead inactive lifestyles. To provide some figures, recently it was reported that, in South Korea, only 24.9% of disabled people participate in sports, compared to 49.3% of non-disabled people.
To promote sport participation among disabled people there are several challenges that need to be addressed. Severely disabled people tend to seclude themselves from society and believe that disability sport is only available for people with mild disabilities. Some disabled people are not even aware of what types of sports they could participate in.
In addition, mainstream media dedicates very little resources to support disability sports. An exemplary case is what happened during the 2018 Pyeong-Chang Paralympics Games in South Korea. Although there were some stories of success, it was disappointing that the Paralympic Games received greater mainstream media coverage outside South Korea than inside. For example, the UK’s Channel 4 dedicated a total of 100 hours to the Paralympic Games, the USA 94 hours, Japan 62 hours and Germany 60 hours. In contrast, South Korean mainstream broadcasting gave a meagre 18 hours of coverage to the 2018 Pyeong-Chang Paralympics Game.
To promote sport participation among a wide range of disabled people, the Korea Paralympic Committee (KPC), where I work, has used the Paralympics and Paralympians as platforms. Through the Pyeong-Chang Paralympic Games, Paralympians’ voices and actions became emblematic of disabled society in South Korea.
At the same time, the KPC has exercised their influence to control the planning, organising and directing of the disability rights movement, thanks to their advanced organisational information and resources. Thus, the Para-sport community can advocate disability rights and disability inclusive environments for the micro (e.g., athletes), meso (e.g., disability sport), and macro (e.g., disability non-sport) layers of society.
To deliver the message of the importance of physical activity and disability inclusion, the KPC and Paralympians have focused on a wide range of media platforms as a catalyst to raise awareness for disability sport. Although media for Para-sport has the potential to frame a heroic portrayal of disability, creating a hierarchy between disabled athletes and non-athlete disabled people, the media could stimulate both hedonic (e.g., immediate gratification, interest in disability sport) and eudaimonic (e.g., sustainable cognitive experiences that shift societal attitude towards disability inclusion) approaches.
Fitting here is an example of collaboration between Paralympians and a film company in South Korea. An ice sledge hockey team participated in a documentary film entitled ‘We ride a sled’, which aimed to shine a light on disability rights and raise awareness for disability sports. Despite reaching an audience of 2,432 people (much less than commercial films), this delivered an informational and inspirational message to the public.
As another example of harnessing visual resources, an infographic was used to disseminate guidelines for promoting the participation of disabled people in physical activity. This method was found to be an affordable, understandable and engaging manner to reach a large number of people by communicating repeatedly in diverse ways (e.g., social media, poster form in public places).
In line with media approaches, the KPC has used online platforms to maximise information flow and extend their influence over the larger disability society. For example, the KPC has provided social, political and cultural perspectives of sports and uploaded various types of Para-sport competition videos to increase awareness of disabled sports through their website, a magazine, and social media accounts (e.g., Instragram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube). In 2019, they initiated live online coverage of Para-sports with STNsports (one of South Korea’s broadcasting stations) and started to train special commentators for Para-sport games.
Inhyang Choi has recently completed her PhD at Durham University, with her thesis focusing on disability sport and activism. She is currently working as an international advisor at the Korea Paralympic Committee.
We need to be more ambitious
Simone Galimberti reflects on his efforts to raise awareness on inclusive sports, and the potential and future of disabled athletes of the world.
What an inspiring journey, from Peru to Saint Lucia to California to Ghana, Uganda, Egypt, Thailand, Australia and Vanuatu and several more stopovers.
These are some of the places where a long list of incredible and emboldening stories, making up this special edition, are coming from.
It is so exciting to read that all over the planet there are committed people who share the same passion and determination to strengthen and make more visible the world of adaptive sports.
While I read of many great success stories, I also find many commonalities in the challenges and fears that we all share, more now than ever because of the impact and consequences of COVID-19.
Ours is a story of trial and failures where we want to unite able bodied youth with peers living with physical disabilities through a common passion for sports.
Based in Nepal, ENGAGE, the organization I co-founded with my wife Kalpana, is a small non-profit that tries to build on the extraordinary ecosystem of passionate social inclusion advocates and adaptive sports practitioners that have been pushing the agenda for inclusive sports in Nepal.
By designing the ENGAGE Sport Coach program, where young able bodied learn and work together with peers and senior players in wheelchair basketball, blind cricket and deaf football, we have always been trying to work in partnership, breaking down the silos that disallow more collaborations and synergies.
It has been a long journey since when in 2013 we started, thanks to our friend and advisor Michael Rosenkrantz, also one of the contributors of this series, our journey towards a more inclusive society.
Working in partnerships with local teams and organizations run by persons with disabilities is not an easy game, but it has been totally worthy and actually it is a must.
It is a must because only this way can able bodied persons can fully understand and respect the huge efforts peers living with disabilities have been putting in building a movement. It is also a must because it is the only way to build inclusion while creating an extraordinary platform for personal development.
Our young ENGAGE Sport Coaches volunteers have learned immensely from working with their peers on and off court and fields, and certainly there has been more of “taking” rather than a “giving” from their side.
Indeed, we tried our best with our little resources (incredibly, we were never been able to raise money for the program) to create a pathway of personal development for both our coaches and players.
We did not always succeed and we still have plenty of work ahead, but we remain hopeful that after the pandemic, we will be able to do what were used to do earlier on: breaking down the wall of discrimination and isolation with one hoop, one wicket and goal a time.
We have some success stories as well in terms of raising the visibility of wheelchair basketball as we were able, thanks to some great partners like Turkish Airlines and the Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal, which believed in us since day 1 to organize three editions of the ENGAGE Empowering League, one of the biggest adaptive sports wheelchair basketball competitions in the region.
The League, indeed the pinnacle of all the work being done by athletes and our coaches volunteers on the ground, has been designed to grow the level of the game while also, inevitably in a country still plagued by high rates of discrimination, aiming to create awareness about social inclusion and disability rights.
The latter dimension is so central and perhaps the most important aspect of the entire initiative, building the foundations of a more inclusive society where youth with disabilities have a big role to play in the development of the society.
Therefore the league has always been much more than sweat and glory on the court: it has been an enabler to promote a new understanding on the rights of persons with disabilities.
I believe we have been partially successful, but the entire endeavor is complex to organize and also expensive if you think about all the awareness outreach with students, trainings, promotion and the daunting logistics.
When the pandemic struck, we partnered with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nepal for “Fit and Healthy No Matter What,” a series of online training and learning opportunities strengthened by psychological awareness that lasted for almost 3 months.
Who knows what will come next. After all ours are the same aspirations and same challenges that I found while reading the incredible contributions of this series.
What I know is that if we want to raise the profile of adaptive sports, we need to be ambitious and think big. Taking a step wise approach can be the right thing to do, but we can’t afford to lose the big goal while we remain humble and march on.
It is not just about stronger and more marketable sports events for adaptive athletes at national and international levels. It is about leveraging the power of sports to build an inclusive and sustainable society that becomes richer because it incorporates the aspirations of athletes with disabilities especially in developing countries and those of all persons with disabilities.
No more shattered dreams, no more the constant feelings of disempowerment, the inability to think big, like having the audacity to imagine that they can match the levels of top international athletes; the frustrations that emerge when egos and politics take over.
Just a practical example. Last year we tried our best to secure some funding for a great Para athlete of Nepal, para table tennis player Keshav Thapa.
We wrote a series of stories in one of the most read dailies in the country, hoping to find some corporate houses excited to support Keshav for his international competitions, a sine qua non for him to have a chance to be in Tokyo.
It was an utter failure despite trying hard to connect with possible sponsors. Why can’t we imagine Keshav and his amazing peers on the ads of a big bank? It is not happening yet, but let’s not despair.
One day will come where adaptive players will be seen also in developing and developed countries as key agents of positive change, not only as testimonials grabbing the headlines, but also as ambassadors for the common good.
Such transformative change can take different names like sustainability and social inclusion for example and hopefully is going to spread around local communities, everywhere.
Persons with disabilities in partnerships with other citizens can be true promoters and inspiring figures of such change and you know what? It can all start from sports.
So let’s go out of our comfort zones and let’s drive our common agenda. Let’s push our communication and marketing tools and let’s engage and involve the people of the world, friends and strangers alike without whom we will always remain invisible and real change will never happen.
Simone Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For some children and youth, it takes a little extra to have a good experience with sports
For people with psychosocial disabilities, participating in sports can sometimes be an overwhelming project. Based on more than 15 years of experience in organizing tailormade sports activities for children and youth in vulnerable positions, GAME is sharing some of their insights and experiences, which can be used to include children and youth with psychosocial disabilities in sports.
Psychosocial disabilities such as autism, anxiety, ADHD and depression differ from physical disabilities in that they are not always immediately visible, yet they can weaken a person's ability to participate in positive sports communities. With GAME’s insights and 10 recommendations, it is possible to integrate even more children and youth into the positive communities of sport.
Barriers for participation in sports
For children and youth with psychosocial disabilities, it can be difficult to play and make friends through sports. Zero sum competition with clear winners and losers leads to an experience of feeling like a failure. This along with the unwritten social rules on the field can be a tough game to navigate in.
In GAME's current project 'Friendships on Asphalt', we found that many of the children have had such bad previous experiences in sports settings, and GAME sees examples of children struggling with anxiety to such an extent that they had forgotten what their bodies could normally do such as climbing trees, jumping around, cycling or even just playing. They were simply not in touch with their body anymore.
In addition, children with psychosocial disabilities are sometimes motorically challenged and have underdeveloped physical abilities, due to lack of exposure and positive experiences with physical activities, which in turn makes it even more difficult to become a member of a local sports team.
Self-esteem and self-confidence
Being physically active and healthy is good in itself. But sport also has a great potential for a positive effect of mental, personal and social outcomes. When a person experiences success physically, they often also feel a positive mental effect. They will have a more general sense of success, which can be transferred to other areas of life such as school, social environment, etc.
GAME’s psychosocial projects take its starting point in street sports and an empowerment approach. The goal is to complete a street sports course which form a network in a leisure activity, that helps them to acquire social skills, improve their quality of life and positively affect schooling.
A teacher from the Friendships on Asphalt project gives an example: ”We had this boy who got a GAME t-shirt and didn’t take it off for a week. Being part of something meant so much to him. It gave him self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Parkour has been an especially successful activity in GAME’s psychosocial projects, since it is incredibly flexible and scalable, which means that everyone, regardless of level or physical shape, can participate in the same practice.
Less competition and more structure
GAME has been working with specially designed street sport programmes for psychosocially disabled children and youth for more than 15 years.
In cooperation with professionals within the social pedagogical field, GAME has created four principles that are always considered when developing programmes and activities for psychosocially disabled children and youth:
- Less competition, more successful experiences for everyone: Everyone should be able to participate in the same game, no matter how good they are, and have the feeling of success
- Focus on structure and clarity: Getting many impressions at once can be overwhelming. In these programmes, the training should be as easy as possible to understand and participate in
- Motivation and support: The acknowledgement of participation and trying your best is more important than the acknowledging performance and results
- More than just physical activity: GAME considers sport a social activity and an arena for development of positive social communities. This promotes a focus on the good experience of everyone involved rather than being great street sports athletes.
In most street sports activities, GAME uses a peer-to-peer approach, and this is also the case in programs for psychosocially disabled children and young people. Young volunteers who themselves have experience with psychosocial disabilities play an important role, by helping the sports instructors in training and being positive role models for the children.
”To be part of this team makes so much sense to me as I wish I had a young person like me in my life when I was younger and had a tough time,” says a volunteer in the Friendships on Asphalt project.
Their experiences and disabilities, which have often been an obstacle, are suddenly a valuable resource here, as they can really relate to - and therefore support - the children. The role models also have a great personal interest in doing this and feel empowered by the recognition of their inner knowledge about psychosocial disability. In GAME, they receive a street sports education and are equipped to support the children and help create social change through the programs.
Learn more about GAME’s psychosocial work on game.ngo and download GAME’s 10 recommendations on how to make including sports activities.
GAME is an NGO founded in 2002 in Denmark, with a mission to create lasting social change through youth-led street sports and culture. GAME establishes innovative facilities and trains youth-leaders as instructors and role models in street sports and civil society.
Bente Justesen is a sociologist and Project Manager at GAME. He leads the Friendships on Asphalt project, a street sports project which targets psychosocially disabled children and youth in Denmark. Currently, 170 children and youth are part of the project.
Karl Baaré is a parkour instructor, anthropology student at Copenhagen University and Junior Coordinator of the project Friendships on Asphalt.
Golden Boots Uganda
Golden Boots Uganda is one of the very few non-governmental organizations in the country that truly understands the power of sport as a transformative tool for people with disabilities.
Golden Boots Uganda is one of the very few non-governmental organizations in the country that truly understands the power of sport as a transformative tool for people with disabilities. Our mission of pioneering new ways of improving young people through sport recognizes the ability of sport to transcend not only linguistic, cultural and social barriers, but also physical ones, through strategies of inclusion and adaptation.
In bid to achieve our mission, we discovered that people with disabilities often face societal barriers that see their sporting dreams die unnoticed. We learnt that disability evokes negative perceptions and discrimination in many societies. That’s why we use sport to bring about change amongst people with disability in an equally profound way. With this we are empowering young people with disabilities to realize their full potential and advocate for changes in society.
We organize sports tournaments and sports days, where groups of young people with disabilities are invited to participate in games like soccer, netball, board games and boxing, with our partner Zebra boxing club, in Bwaise slums, Kampala. In addition, we distribute sports kits like uniforms and balls to community sports groups, and specialized kits to individuals with physical disability. Such important projects and arrangements allow every athlete, even with disabilities, to achieve sporting excellence.
In the process of including persons with disabilities in sport, Golden Boots Uganda has had a number of hindrances that have, in most cases, taken quite some good time to overcome. We encountered issues like negative school experiences, low expectations from teachers, low physical education provision in schools, lack of information and expertise, lack of accessible facilities, as well as widespread negative perception about individuals with physical challenges.
Through sharing stories of great disabled sports men and women like Paralympians, we have managed to demonstrate to disabled young people what can be achieved when they test their body to its absolute limits. This has also served in the fight against negative perceptions. The idea of establishing specialized sporting equipment and facilities has seen us promote inclusion in our sports activities, no matter their physical condition.
Through projects like ‘Rise and Shine,’ where we created a platform for young women and people with disabilities to voice their issues, receive skills and knowledge through a one day sports gala; the Women and Disability Forum; and the practical exhibition workshops, Golden Boots Uganda has tried to enable people with disabilities to reach their potential through sports.
It is unfortunate, that people with disabilities are still largely excluded in many development programs. At Golden Boots Uganda, we hope to not leave anyone behind in our sports initiatives and development programs, including persons with disabilities. It is our pleasure to welcome other organizations to borrow ideas from our all- inclusive sports activities and programs that fully recognize the potential of every beneficiary, without considering their physicality.
We hope to encourage other organizations to develop an all-inclusive approach in their activities that will help change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. Through all our projects, we urge our communities to desist from viewing persons with disabilities as objects of charity, medical treatment and social protection, but rather as capable subjects with rights, ability and potential to make decisions for their wellbeing and being active members of society.
Despite Uganda’s robust inclusive policies for persons with disabilities, the country’s biggest sporting federations are yet to embrace the potential of persons with disability. The Federation of Uganda Football Associations is arguably the most popular sports federation in the country; yet it remains uncertain when it will enact an all-inclusive approach to training footballers, including those who are physically challenged. Credit must be given to the Uganda Athletics Association for walking the talk. The federation promotes physical literacy, which outlines how sustainable development begins with healthy, safe, active and well nurtured citizens.
We highly acknowledge the potential of persons with disabilities to contribute to building of society like their able counterparts. Events like the Paralympics give the best opportunity to the disabled to prove their worth to the whole world. With our projects, there is hope that people with disabilities will find fulfilment in sport due do the diversity of sports disciplines therein.
Amuron Joyce Norah is the Communications Officer at Golden Boots Uganda
Promoting inclusivity in all aspects of life: Perspectives from Zambia
Response Network Zambia works to promote inclusivity in all their programmes. They also support projects which promote the inclusion of disabled youth in sports.
Response Network Zambia is a registered NGO operating in three districts of Southern Zambia for the past 15 years. The organisation’s philosophy is self-help facilitation. Through this strategy, the organisation motivates people to start self-help activities using locally available resources, without dependence on hand outs. The target beneficiaries are women, children and persons with disabilities, them being marginalised in predominantly patriarchal rural communities.
To promote inclusiveness, the organisation has an inclusive policy both at place of work and in the implementation target communities. This means the organisation is non-discriminatory, with regards to disability. We also encourage inclusive participation of persons with disabilities in community decision-making, community education and sports activities. We have had a fully fledged disability inclusive programme in rural communities from 2016 to 2019.
We have found much success in using self-help equipment, made from locally available materials within the community.
We have strongly advocated for the implementation of inclusive policies that have been put in place by the government. We have coupled this with extensive sensitisation on the importance of including persons with disabilities, through local language literature and radio programs in the form of sketches and plays/dramas.
We have also trained a community of paralegals to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities, so that they can assert their rights when they are infringed upon.
Some challenges that we have faced include:
- Lack of inclusive, accessible and user-friendly sport facilities
- Lack of extensive knowledge and information on sport and disability, especially in rural communities since they are our focus areas
- Stigma, cultural and traditional mysteries surrounding causes of disability
In order to combat these challenges, we would like to see the following resources and information developed:
- Inclusive, safe and accessible sporting facilities
- Literature addressing different kinds of disability
- Adaptive and domestic sporting equipment for persons with disabilities
- Capacity building of people working with disabilities
Sports for development organisations are doing a very good job, though more support is needed from the government and other stakeholders to reach out to a larger number of persons living with disabilities. A wider network can be achieved through strengthened synergies. In the future, we hope to see increased allocation of national budgets to programmes and activities that promote inclusive sport.
While the current policies are good, there are no enforcement mechanisms by the government to ensure that policies are implemented. In order for the government and sports federations to be effective, there needs to be a deliberation process to reward and incentivise those organisations and institutions that are inclusive.
Joshua Paliso is an 18-year-old visually impaired young man who also has an intellectual disability. He has 5 sisters and is the last born and only male in the family. Due to his disability, his family did not think there would be much he could achieve in his life, and hence did not pay him much attention.
He studies at St. Mulumba Special School for the blind in Choma, Southern Zambia. He was identified by the school as a very good athlete after engaging him in sports activities and he exhibited much interest in athletics.
He was among the 8 athletes from Zambia that travelled to Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics World Games in 2019. During the Special Olympics games, he won a gold medal in the 100 metres race. Joshua was very excited to go back home and how his parents his first achievement in his life.
This experience changed Joshua’s life, as well as his family’s perception on disability. His self-esteem and confidence has improved, and now he motivates his friends who are living with different disabilities so that they can make it, just as he did.
He comes from a very vulnerable family, who struggle with basic food security challenges, compromising his health and nutrition. Due to his involvement in sports, many well-wishers have, once in a while, come to the aid of his family, while others support him with his educational needs, though this support is not consistent.
Due to his continued good performance and resilience, he was selected to participate in the Pan-African Special Olympic Games, held in January 2020 in Egypt.
Evelyn Kazoka is a special education teacher at Mujala primary school, Livingstone, Zambia. She is currently pursuin a master’s degree in special education. She has also worked for Cheshire Homes in Livingstone as a special education instructor.
[This article has been edited by the Operating Team.]