Sports consulting newsletter #8 - Sport for all has been saved
Sports consulting newsletter #8 - Sport for all
In 2019, the International Paralympic Committee, along with its development arm, the Agitos Foundation, launched a worldwide educative project called “I’mPOSSIBLE”. Driven by the will to change how young people perceive people with impairments, this program aims at fostering the social inclusion of people with an impairment through sport and spreading Paralympic values. Luxembourg is one of the first European nations that decided to implement this project locally, under the impulse of the Luxembourg Paralympic Committee.
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This newsletter looks at the benefits of sport and physical activity for people with an impairment and highlights the main difficulties they face when it comes to participating in sport. Additionally, it presents some of the main projects launched worldwide, and in Luxembourg, in response to this topic.
In Luxembourg, and globally, the implementation and improvement of sports opportunities and sports facilities for people with an impairment is an important topic.
People with an impairment, be it intellectual or physical, represent approximatively 15 percent of the worldwide population1. In Luxembourg, in 2015, this amounted to 9.7 percent of the population2. Increasing social integration and developing opportunities for people with impairments is an ongoing challenge. Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that signatory States shall take appropriate measures to enable persons with an impairment to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure, and sporting activities. The consideration of the UN for sports and impairment illustrates the social and societal importance of making sports activities accessible for everyone.
Indeed, the positive effects of sports and physical activity on physical and mental health are now widely supported by empirical evidence.
In addition to and beyond the health-related benefits, sports activities are conducive to social inclusion and self-fulfillment for people with an impairment. It offers a privileged space to enhance social relationships. Additionally, on a more emotional level, sport fosters self-esteem and well-being, and helps to change people’s views on people with an impairment, highlighting their talents. Therefore, along with the values of sharing, determination, and consolidation of the social bond it conveys, integration through sport can be incorporated within social and educational policies for people with an impairment.
Yet, despite the undeniable importance of sport for people with an impairment, there is still a lot of progress to be made to ease access to sports activities for everyone.
Practicing sport at an amateur or professional level remains relatively difficult to access for people with an impairment.
Despite laws progressively being enforced across the globe, numerous sports facilities are still not accessible for people with an impairment, even in developed countries. By sports facilities, we mean the access not only to sports halls, but also to changing rooms, refreshments areas, sports viewing areas etc. Canada’s 2018 Report Card on physical activity for Children and Youth (a comprehensive assessment of child and youth physical activity in Canada developed by the group ParticipACTION’s) concurred with this idea, highlighting the lack of appropriate equipment and professional support staff3. Even when the sports facilities are designed to welcome people with an impairment, it can still be challenging for them to travel to these facilities, as public transportation does not always cater for people with an impairment. In Paris, for instance, only 3 percent of the Metro network is accessible for people with an impairment4.
Moreover, people with an impairment can face extra costs when attempting to participate in sport: they may have to pay for specialized transport to visit a sport facility. Once they have reached the facility, they may have to pay to use specialized equipment (sport-fitted wheelchairs etc.). Fortunately, subsidies are often offered in several countries: for instance, in France, the “Prestation de Compensation du Handicap” offers aid for the fitting out of a vehicle to allow access for a person with an impairment as well as the additional transport costs related to the impairment, and sports associations affiliated to the FFH (Handisport French Federation) receive federal subsidies for the acquisition of specific equipment5.
Finally, new debates continue to emerge. For instance, various para-athletes have requested to take part in the Olympic Games. This raised the following question: how to integrate within able-bodied competitions para-athletes with equipment that could be seen as an advantage in comparison to able-bodied athletes? With this reversal, the impairment shifts to an advantage. For many people with an impairment, this debate outlines another example of challenges they face.
However, over the past decades, many organizations and political institutions have sought to remove barriers and further develop sport for people with impairments.
The below timeline summarizes some key events in the progress and support for amateur and professional para-athletes6:
Click on the picture to enlarge
Governments have played an important role in the development of para sports in recent years. Globally, thanks to their policies, access to sports activities is progressively getting easier and technology is allowing para-athletes to access to more tailored training equipment. These efforts contribute to an increasing presence of para athletes in the media.
In Luxembourg, the government has implemented various incentives to promote sports for people with an impairment, and defined guidelines in its coalition agreement to ensure the possibility for everyone to take part in sports activities. Even if the situation is not yet perfect and some challenges remain, a great deal of ongoing improvements have been made. During European Sports Week, the Sports Ministry of Luxembourg appointed para-athletes as ambassadors. Moreover, thanks to a cooperation agreement between the Rehazenter (National Center for Functional Re-education and Rehabilitation), the Sports Ministry and the Health Ministry, Special Olympics Luxembourg can enjoy the sports facilities at the Rehazenter, in addition to the ones already available at D’Coque Centre (National Cultural and Sports Center, main Luxembourg sports complex). In May 2019, the Sports League of Primary Schools organized an event gathering 400 able-bodied children in the National Sports and Cultural Center in a bid to raise awareness on impairment: they practiced various sports as if they were persons with reduced mobility. In the same vein, to close off the “I’mPOSSIBLE” project, the Luxembourg Paralympic Committee hosted a “taster day” in September 2019 at Rehazenter, where children and adults with and without impairment could try different para sports.
Luxembourg’s firms and associations followed the government’s path and implemented various projects to enhance and sponsor sports activities for people with an impairment:
Click on the picture to enlarge
This is of course an ongoing process, and everyone should continue to look to support and develop the accessibility to sports for people with an impairment. Let’s all support Tom Habscheid, who has already qualified for the Tokyo Paralympic Games that will occur in 2021 and who will represent Luxembourg!
1 (2019, April 23). Retrieved from Webzine Okeenea: https://webzine.okeenea.com/chiffres-handicap-monde-2019/
2 Lëtzebuerg, C. p. (2015). Guide pratique du handicap en entreprise. Retrieved from https://imslux.lu/assets/publication/21/_Handi_CapEmploiGuide_pratique_du_handicap_en_entreprise_FR.pdf
3 Goldowitz, D. (2018, August 8). Children with disabilities need better access to sport. The Conversation. Retrieved from The Conversation: http://theconversation.com/children-with-disabilities-need-better-access-to-sport-99493
4 Haddek, E. (2019, June 10). Handicapés : le casse-tête de l'accès au métro parisien. Le Journal du Dimanche . Retrieved from Le Journal du Dimanche: https://www.lejdd.fr/Societe/handicapes-le-casse-tete-de-lacces-au-metro-parisien-3903814
5 Aides financières. (2019). Retrieved from Handisport.org: https://www.handisport.org/aides-financiere
6 Rio 2016 Paralympics smash all TV viewing records. (2017, March 16). Retrieved from International Paralympic Committee: https://www.paralympic.org/news/rio-2016-paralympics-smash-all-tv-viewing-records
Giulia Bruni Roccia
Eleonore Moreau Gentien