A number of international charters and policies have had an impact on the area of disability sport and development.
International charters and policies
Early international policies related to sport and development began with the Council of Europe formulating a policy on Sport For All which was passed in 1976 declaring that every individual shall have the right to participate in sport.
In 1978, the United Nations Education Science and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) adopted an International Charter of Physical Education and Sport which stated that every person is entitled to participate in sport, including specifically women, young people, the elderly and those with a disability. The United Nations declared 1981 the International Year of Disabled People and although there was much debate over the term ‘disabled people’ this was the first step in raising global awareness about people with disabilities and some of the issues they were facing.
In 1987, the Council of Europe extended their recognition of the right to participate in sport by creating the Sport for All: Disabled People charter.
What matters most for the Council of Europe, as reflected in the words of Sir Ludwig Guttmann, is that ‘sport should become a driving force for the disabled to seek or restore his contact with the world around him and this his recognition as an equal and respected citizen'.
The United Nations declared 1981 to 1991 the International Decade of People with a Disability and following this decade developed the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalisation of Persons with Disabilities. Another important outcome of these developments was the introduction of an International Day for Disabled People.
Some of these early international instruments related to sport have enabled participation in sport to grow around the world and also stimulated policy development in regions of the world. In Europe, 2003 was declared the European Year of Persons with Disabilities at the end of which a Decalogue of Adapted Sport was proposed. This was followed by a European Year of Education through Sport in 2004. Similar examples of regional policy development are evidenced by the African Decade of Disabled Persons (2000 – 2009).
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
In December 2006, the United Nations enacted a comprehensive legislation called the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The purpose of the convention is to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities. Importantly, the convention also includes in Article 30.5, specific legislation on the rights of people with a disability to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities.
This convention is a major step toward changing the perception of disability and ensures that societies recognise that all people must be provided with the opportunities to live life to their fullest potential, whatever that may be. Other human rights treaties, such as the conventions on the rights of children and women have had a major effect in addressing rights violations and this new convention is a major milestone in the protection of human rights of people with a disability around the world.