A call to action for international sport to embrace disability inclusion
"At a time when diversity and inclusion are hot topics, the 15% who have a disability want effective change to remove the inequality and inactivity.
"To end discrimination and transform the lives of the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities so they can be visible and active members of an inclusive society.
"Put persons with disabilities at the heart of the diversity and inclusion agenda."
It has been energizing to see the global Wethe15 campaign, launched just prior to the opening of the Tokyo Paralympic Games, lighting up global landmarks in the color purple, and raising awareness for disability inclusion in communities and societies around the world. While this symbolic support is a good starting point, what does this mean in terms of taking meaningful concrete action for disability inclusion within international sport? Hopefully Wethe15 can signal to the global community that disability inclusion applies to the world of sport.
Across international sport federations (IFs), disability is often missing from non-discrimination, diversity, and inclusion statements and policies. Wethe15 has the potential to serve as a catalyst for international sport to ensure that disability is stated as part of the fabric of all non-discrimination, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. For the Wethe15 campaign to be fully effective and meaningful, it needs to garner support and leadership from all international sport governing bodies.
The UN Human Rights report on physical activity and sports, under article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, states in point 78, “Local, national and international organizations involved in sport, recreation and physical activity should commit to the full inclusion of persons with disabilities, and those that have already committed to human rights and non-discrimination overall must be sure to explicitly include persons with disabilities.”
A sample of current non-discrimination statements from 10 international sport federations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) makes it clear, however, that disability is still not explicitly recognized in many of these statements.
Not allow any form of discrimination in its actions or decisions, be it discrimination of any kind such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Preserve the right of every individual to participate in Athletics as a sport, without unlawful discrimination of any kind undertaken in the spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
IIHF Ice Hockey
The IIHF does not permit discrimination against a private person or group of people on account of race; skin color; ethnic, national or social origin; gender, gender expression or gender identity; physical and mental disability; language; religion; political associations; birth or other status; sexual orientation or any other reason.
To ensure that the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, political opinions, family status or other, is respected.
FIFA Football (Soccer)
Discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or group of people on account of race, skin color, ethnic, national or social origin, gender, disability, language, religion, political opinion or any other opinion, wealth, birth or any other status, sexual orientation or any other reason is strictly prohibited and punishable by suspension or expulsion.
To prevent discrimination of any kind against a country, private person or groups of people on account of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion, politics or any other reason.
The FIS does not allow any discrimination of and by a National Ski Association, a club or an individual member for political, racial or religious reasons.
ITTF Table Tennis
Rejection of discrimination of any kind on whatever grounds, be it race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Promote universally the development of the game at all levels regardless of age, gender or disability.
The FIVB shall not discriminate between individuals or between nations and shall refrain from any involvement in political, religious, philosophical or racial matters.
Without discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Wethe15 can be a catalyst to bring attention to the importance of inclusion and non-discrimination within international sport. Wethe15 can also establish a legacy throughout international sport by encouraging IFs, the IOC, as well as National Sport Federations (NSFs) around the world to commit to specifically include disability in non-discrimination, diversity, and inclusion policies and practices.
This would be a significant step forward in the world of sport and would ensure that the ideals of the Wethe15 campaign continue in a systemic way long after the symbolic purple lights are dimmed. Changes to language are powerful and can tangibly transform the international sport community landscape to become inclusive of persons with disabilities moving forward. Keeping in mind that sport is a human right, Wethe15 can provide the impetus to fully include people with disabilities in international sport, thus enabling us all to be more fully human.
Eli A. Wolff, Power of Sport Lab
Mary A. Hums, University of Louisville
David Legg, Mt. Royal University