There is evidence of people with a disability participating in sport as early as the 18th and 19th centuries and sport activities were instrumental in the rehabilitation of people with a disability.

  • 1924
    • The first International Silent Games were held in Paris. This was the earliest international sports competition for people with disabilities and still exists today.
    • Two men are credited for pioneering the first International Silent Games - Mr. Eugene Rubens-Alcais (France) and Mr. Antoine Dresse (Belgium).
    • A world games for the deaf was held every four years since then, except during World War II.
  • 1944
    • Sir Ludwig Guttmann organised a sports competition for World War II veterans with spinal cord injury in Stoke Mandeville, England. 
  • 1948
    • The first Stoke Mandeville Games were held, which was the precursor to the Paralympic Games.
  • 1949
    • Once World War II ended, deaf sport quickly resumed and the first winter games took place in Seefeld, Austria.
  • 1962
    • In June of 1962, Eunice Kennedy-Shriver started a summer day camp for children and adults with intellectual disabilities at her home.
  • 1968
    • The first Special Olympics World Games were held in Soldier Field, Chicago, USA.
  • 1976
    • The Paralympic Games were expanded to include other disability groups and the first Paralympic winter games were held in Sweden. 
  • 1977
    • The first Special Olympic Winter Games were held.


History of disability sport and APA competitions in developing countries

Since the 1970s the concept of organised multi-sport and multi-disability games became popular and a number of regional games for people with a disability also emerged. These include games such as the Parapan American Games and the Far East and South Pacific Games. 

Whilst there is limited historical and statistical evidence of the participation of people with a disability in developing countries, in the three largest international competitions – Deaflympics, Paralympic Games and Special Olympics World Games - participation by developing countries has seen the greatest improvement since 1990.

Image by Alesia Kozik