Paralympics Continue to Raise Profile of Disabled Atheletes

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The Paralympic Games continue to raise the profile of disabled athletes and to inspire people the world over to become active regardless of their personal condition. The Rio 2016 Games are being reported as the second most successful Paralympic Games, and certainly in Canada the athletes received coverage on the national stage.

We are beginning to see the efforts of these athletes and their achievements be celebrated throughout the globe. A 2013 survey conducted by the Office for National Statistics and the Department of Work and Pensions in the UK found that 53% of respondents said their views of disabled people had been positively changed by the Games.  According to the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, sport helps to remove barriers to disabled people by changing community perception of disablitiy and refocussing attention onto ability.

In Canada we embraced the UK’s Channel 4 introduction of #superhumans in the description of their 2012 Paralympians. We celebrated them with our own coverage of Team Canada on the CBC and other news networks. Extensive athlete profiles were created and posted on the CBC as they were for the able bodied athletes.

All of the national teams had high hopes that another extremely successful games will result in a higher participation rate within their own disabled sports leagues nationally. The Federal Government released the Policy on Sport for Personas with Disability in 2006. The intent of the policy is to encourage “the full and active participation of persons with a disability in Canadian sport at all levels and in all forms, to the extent of their abilities and interests”.

This represented a great step forward in the support and development of disabled sport in Canada, and as a result in the visibility of disabled sport to Canadians in general. The continued public acceptance and support of disabled athletics is an indicator of the success of the policy and efforts of the athletes. Identified barriers to continued success and uptake of disabled sport include the limited opportunities for disabled children to participate in organized physical activities. According to the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy “children with disabilities are at risk for limited daily occupational participation” Outside of school and OT disable kids have few opportunities to participate although the study shows that they enjoy the same activities as those children without these disabilities.”

Locally we have many successful organizations providing support to disabled athletes including the Track 3 program at Chicopee that encourages blind, disabled, and wheelchair bound athletes to learn to ski.