Sport and Adapted Physical Activity (APA) has been linked to providing positive outcomes for people with disabilities. This section provides an introduction to some of these issues, a brief history of how this field emerged and a summary of current thinking about APA and sport and recreation opportunities to ensure participation of individuals with a disability from development contexts. An overview of disability-related definitions and terminology is also provided.

Today, the idea of people with a disability being able to participate in sport and physical activity is not so uncommon. In many countries, opportunities exist from the grassroots to elite levels for people with a disability to showcase their abilities in sport and physical activity. But this is not the case in all parts of the world. Whilst there has been progressive and positive change in quality of life for people with disabilities in many developed countries, often this progress is not reflected in developing countries.

People with a disability in developing countries face major barriers that limit their access to and participation in sport and physical activity. Within a development context, these barriers impact on both: (i) building activity pathways for people with disabilities and (ii) using sport and physical activity programmes to reach wider development goals.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 650 million people live with disabilities of various types, and the number is increasing due to the rise of chronic diseases, injuries, car crashes, falls, violence and other causes such as ageing. Of this total, 80% live in low-income countries; most are poor and have limited or no access to basic services, including rehabilitation facilities.

This rising incidence of disability, particularly in developing countries has the potential to place further burdens on governments and health care systems. Sport can be a low-cost and effective means to foster positive health and well-being, social inclusion and community building for people with a disability.

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