Youth power in disabled sports matters
Nurturing tolerance within diversity to attain social inclusion for people with disabilities can be achieved through informal activities in our daily lives, one of which is sports. Sport is a universal language that plays the unique role of identity, values, and culture in breaking down the barriers for everyone. Sport becomes an arena that drives positive change, fight hatred and bring peace, promote human rights, deepen inclusiveness, build a more tolerant and more cohesive society.
Sport can also be interpreted by youth as an ideal means to foster inclusiveness and the well-being of people with disabilities, who face social barriers, including social stigma, negative perceptions, exclusion from education, work, and life in society. As a youth with disabilities, I participated in disabled sports as an athlete and administrator of local sports organizations for persons with disabilities at the National Paralympic Committee of Kulon Progo (NPC).
I joined this community because I want to be an active participant as an athlete, as well as a part of the movement to fight injustice that I had experienced. NPC is a local disabled sports organization that organizes sports development for athlete with disabilities while also serving as a platform for sports groups in the community. This organization includes both disabled and able-bodied members, and it also allows for youth participation in running the program's organization in order to address social barriers and discrimination.
The journey in the sports field has opened my eyes to the fact that sports can be used not only to stay healthy, but also to advocate for justice and to fight discrimination. I was born and raised in a small town where people with disabilities are not encouraged to participate in sports.
When people with disabilities participate in sports, they face two critical issues. For starters, participation in sports by people with disabilities is considered taboo in society. Currently, sports are classified as masculine and hazardous, and they are thought to be performed solely by those with complete and strong biological bodies. People with disabilities are viewed as vulnerable subjects in activities involving physical exercise.
Harassment, social isolation, unpleasant comments and labelling, and encouraging the establishment of isolating policies or organizational processes are all examples of these activities. When I was in school, I faced discrimination in the form of being excluded from a ceremony honoring excellent students, since my achievement came from sports championships for students with disabilities. This school's decision was heart-breaking, since the treatment falls far short of the value of fairness and undervalues the potential of people with disabilities in sports.
In response to this injustice, we are attempting to carry out socialization activities about disabled sports in educational institutions ranging from elementary to high school in order to educate school personnel and remove the negative stigma associated with the presence of people with disabilities in the field of sports.
Second, lack of accessibility in sports facilities and infrastructure limits the involvement of individuals with disabilities in sports. It may appear to be a stadium structure that was not created in accordance with universal design principles. With these barriers, it is tough for athletes and spectators.
For instance, the unavailability of ramps makes it difficult for wheelchair users to enter buildings, and those with visual impairments have significant challenges while attempting to use building facilities. Furthermore, the challenge that athletes face in the field of sports is that there is still discrimination in terms of reward bonuses for outstanding athletes. Disabled athletes who win medals in regional championships prior to 2020 do not earn the same accomplishment bonus as non-disabled athletes. This inequality creates a chasm for athletes with disabilities who are eligible for achievement bonuses. In response to this issue, we urged the Regent to allocate a budget for accomplishment bonuses for athletes with disabilities who excel. We also encouraged local governments to enhance public facilities, particularly sports venues, to ensure accessibility for all forms of disabilities.
Sports facilities should enable the participation of people with disabilities in sports as a reasonable accommodation for the requirements of people with disabilities, and the social environment that is constructed should provide a safe space and support for people with disabilities. Sport, which is often used to improve physical health, has evolved into a platform for developing an inclusive society for persons with disabilities.
This may be true — not everyone wants to or even enjoys sports — however in the case of people with disabilities, those who participate, and based on my personal experience as a youth with disabilities, assert that it contributes to social integration-inclusion, development and strengthening self-capacity, obtaining welfare, and wellness, as well as boosting social engagement and community ties.
Destry Indra Wibawa of Indonesia is a Junior Policy Analyst in a government think-tank organization. He currently conducts research on the issues of disability and human rights in Indonesia. As a youth with disabilities, Indra is passionate about disability embracement in sports, education, and technology. He believes that living with disabilities shall not stop someone from contributing to society. In 2018, he took part in the Sports Visitor Program, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ Sports Diplomacy Division and administered by FHI 360.