Chapter I

We’ll begin by defining and characterizing both disability and sport, then contextualize sport for persons with disabilities and finally, analyse the purposes of full participation or inclusion as stated by the United Nations, according to the World Program of Action Concerning Disabled[1] adopted by the General Assembly of United Nations on 3rd December 1982, by its resolution 37/52. The World Program was one of the fruits of International Year of Disabled Persons.



Chapter I

The world population with disabilities is estimated to be 15% (WHO, 2019) which represents more than one billion persons, and is considered the largest minority in the world, as confirmed by the World Bank (World Bank, 2019).

In the European Union there are an estimated 80 million people with disabilities and this will reach 120 million by 2020.

The definition of disability that we adopt, is the same as the European Union uses in European Disability 2010-2020 which is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD or UN Convention): ‘Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.’

The definition of Disability/Impairments is, according to WHO, “Impairments are problems in body function or structure such as a significant deviation or loss”.

Persons with disabilities are included in other population segments, such as: “Vulnerable Population” (UNPD, 2014), “people at risk of poverty or social exclusion” (Eurostat, 2019), “less active and physically active population” (Eurobarometer, 2018; WHO, 2006) and “students with special education needs” (Warnock Report, 1978; Salamanca Declaration, 1994).

Persons with disabilities in addition to belonging to a specific segment of the “Vulnerable Population” can also be part of poor, informal workers, social excluded, children, youth, elderly, women, migrants, minorities, refugees and victims natural disaster (natural disasters such as tsunami, cyclone, earthquakes, hurricanes) or artificial disasters (man-made, like Darfur, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Angola).

The Human Development Report (UNDP, 2014) shows that 15 percent of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multidimensional poverty, 80 percent of the global population lack comprehensive social protection, about 12 percent suffer from chronic hunger, about 50 percent of people worldwide lack any type of social security, 50 percent of all workers are in informal or precarious employment, 22 percent live on less than $ 1.25 a day, increasing the global income poverty line to $ 2.50 a day raises the global income poverty rate, more than 46 percent of people ages 60 and older live with disability, facing severe challenges to full participation in society as well as about 15 percent of the world’s population with disability.

In the EU, in 2016, the risk of poverty and social exclusion was 23.5%, a situation that worsens for about a third of the population (31.7%), where the risk of poverty and social exclusion relates toone or more of the following conditions: risk of poverty after social transfers (income poverty), severely materially deprived or living in households with very low work intensity.

Persons with disabilities are physically less active than their non-disabled peers including on sports.

In the EU, there are roughly 80 million persons with disabilities. Interestingly, 14% of respondents in the latest Barometer on Sport and Physical activity in the EU cite disability or illness as the main reason for not practising sport regularly. As far as the importance attached to sport by persons with disabilities is concerned, “difficulty participating in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport” is considered important, by 5% of respondents in a survey, 9th in a list of 19 issues.

The World Health Organization Report (WHO, 2006) shows that physical inactivity causes 600,000 deaths per year in the European Region, there is a loss of 5.3 million years of average life expectancy per year due to premature mortality and morbidity. Physical inactivity increases the risk of many non-communicable diseases (NCD). In addition to human suffering, economic impacts are estimated at 17.5 billion euros, according to a report from England and a Swiss study estimates a cost of €220 to €440 per person per year.

The school population includes not only students with disabilities, but also other students without disabilities that are considered a part of students with special educational needs. Although these students aren’t eligible and classified for performance/competition sport, they may be eligible for basic sport, for School Sport.

In the field of sport, formal or informal, persons with disabilities may be part of specific programs and/or specific projects, like Sport for children[2], women[3][4] and sports[5], sports in prisons[6], sport for immigrants[7], sports for minorities[8] (gypsies, indigenous[9]), sports and LGBTI[10] – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and intersexual[11][12], sports and refugees[13][14] and volunteering in sport[15].

[1] United Nations (1982). World Programme of Action concerning Disabled Persons. Link

[2] Commission of the European Communities. (2008). Council Directive on implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Brussels.

[3] Women In Sport – link

[4] European Commission (2010). Strategy for equality between women and men 2010-2015.

[5] Olenik, L. M., Matthews, J. M., & Steadward, R. D. (1995) Women, disability and sport: Unheard voices. Canadian woman studies, 15(4).

[6] Council of Europe – Sports and Prisons in Europe – link

[7] Immigrants and Sports – link

[8] Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU). (1996). Joint Action adopted by the Council on the basis of Article k.3 of the Treaty on European Union, concerning action to combat racism and xenophobia (96/443/JHA).

[9] World Indigenous Games – link

[10] LGBT – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender – link

[11] European Commission (2016), Annual Report 2016 on the List of Actions to Advance LGBTI Equity

[12] United Nations (2012) BORN FREE AND EQUAL – Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in International Human Rights Law

[13] Refugees and Sport – link

[14] European Olympic Committee (Refugees and Sports) – link

[15] OJEU C 189, 15.6.2017, p. 40 – sport as a platform for social inclusion through volunteering



Chapter I

We use the Council of Europe’s European Charter for Sport (CE, 1975) and the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union (EU, 2009) to define sport and sport for persons with disabilities.

The definition of sport as expressed in Article 2 (Definitions and Scope of the Charter of the Council of Europe) is: “Sport, means all forms of physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels”.

The Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth, I.P. (IPDJ, I.P.) incorporates and adapts the Council of Europe’s definition of Sport to the National Sport for ALL Program (PNDpT), introducing two dimensions: one refers the human diversity making sport inclusive not only for persons with disabilities, but also for other people with their different conditions; the second incorporates the energy or caloric expenditure into the concept of practice in a clear allusion to the concerns of World Health Organization (WHO, 2010) in combating inactivity, obesity, searching promote physical and sports activity with regular frequency, defining what should be the amount and intensity of the practice for the different age groups.

The Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth, I.P. (IPDJ, I.P.) introduced these two premises in the concept that’s reflected in the National Program for Sport for All (PNDpT, 2015), which is: “[the] practice of a sport activity, informal or formal, may be regular or not, intended for all people, without exception, that must demand an effort, which effort must be adapted”.



Chapter I

Eligibility and sports classification are two sine qua non conditions in performance/competition or Paralympic Sport in order to guarantee the truth, fairness of sports and the equal participation conditions for athletes that are competing in a particular competition.

Furthermore, the athletes, in sport in general, can be grouped by age, gender and body weight, however in the case of athletes with disabilities are required two conditions: the first condition is check if the athlete has a disability, according the “eligibility” criteria to compete in a particular sport. And then the athletes are “classified”, in other words, setting homogeneous groups are constituted to compete in a particular event, according the system, methods and techniques of medical and functional evaluation, established by the different international sport bodies.

The table below lists the thirteen types of disabilities established as eligible by for international sports bodies, recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organize the Summer and Winter Games, which are parallel to the Olympic Games:

  • International Paralympic Committee (IPC) –
  • International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (ICSD ou Deaflympics) –

The table below lists the thirteen types of disabilities established as eligible by for international sports bodies, recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organize the Summer and Winter Games, which are parallel to the Olympic Games:

The table below lists the thirteen types of disabilities established as eligible by for international sports bodies, recognized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which organize the Summer and Winter Games, which are parallel to the Olympic Games:



Table 1







Examples of health conditions likely to cause such impairments





muscle power

Reduced force generated by muscles or muscle groups, such as muscles of one limb or the lower half of the body, as caused, for example, by spinal cord injuries, spina bifida or polio

spinal cord injuries,

spina bifida or



Impaired passive range of movement

Range of movement in one or more joints is reduced permanently, for example due to arthrogryposis. Hypermobility of joints, joint instability, and acute conditions, such as arthritis, are not considered eligible impairments.

Arthrogryposis, ankylosis, post burns joint contractures

Limb deficiency

Total or partial absence of bones or joints as a consequence of trauma (e.g. car accident), illness (e.g. bone cancer) or congenital limb deficiency (e.g. dysmelia).

Amputation resulting from trauma or congenital limb deficiency

Leg length difference

Bone shortening in one leg due to congenital deficiency or trauma.

Congenital or traumatic causes of bone shortening in one leg

Short stature

Reduced standing height due to abnormal dimensions of bones of upper and lower limbs or trunk, for example due to achondroplasia or growth hormone dysfunction.

Achondroplasia, growth dysfunction


Abnormal increase in muscle tension and a reduced ability of a muscle to stretch, due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.

Cerebral palsy, stroke, acquired brain injury, multiple sclerosis


Lack of co-ordination of muscle movements due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.

Ataxia resulting from cerebral palsy, brain injury, Friedreich’s ataxia, multiple sclerosis, spinocerebellar ataxia


Generally characterised by unbalanced, involuntary movements and a difficulty in maintaining a symmetrical posture, due to a neurological condition, such as cerebral palsy, brain injury or multiple sclerosis.

Cerebral palsy, stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis.


Visual impairment

Vision is impacted by either an impairment of the eye structure, optical nerves or optical pathways, or the visual cortex.


Low vision

Myopia, tunnel vision, scotoma, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, congenital cataract, macular degeneration

Intellectual Impairment

A limitation in intellectual functioning and adaptive behaviour as expressed in conceptual, social and practical adaptive skills, which originates before the age of 18.



Intellectual retardation, learning deficiency




Deaf, defined as a hearing loss of at least 55dB pure tone average (PTA) in the better ear (three-tone pure tone average at 500, 1000 and 2000 Hertz, air conduction, ISO 1969 Standard)





Recipients of organ, tissue and cell transplants, as well as living donors and donor families.

Organ, tissue and cell transplants.

Kidney, Liver, Heart, Lung, Pancreas, Bone-marrow, Small Bowel, Islet Cell



Intellectual disability (ID)

Intellectual disability (ID) is a term used to describe a person with certain limitations in cognitive functioning and other skills, including communication and self-care.





Chapter I

We can systematize the participation of persons with disabilities in Sport in three areas:

  1. Enjoying sport as a cultural and human good;
  2. Participation as a sports agent;
  3. Participation as a sports player.

The European Model for Inclusion into or through Sport as well the Guide(s) for their implementation should ensure the three domains of participation, mainly active participation.

Enjoying Sport as a Cultural and Human good

The enjoyment of sport as a cultural property and human legacy can take the following forms:

  • It may be in the form of services and/or sport products.
  • Participation may be free of charge or services and/or products may be paid for.
  • Participation can be passive, either as a spectator who comes to the premises to watch the sporting event or to watch the distance through television or a technological device. The degree of active participation will depend on the volume and intensity, the nature of the service and/or the leisure, tourism or other product.

Participation as a sports agent

Participation as a sports agent may be as a volunteer or as a professional who is paid for the service they provide.

Participation as a sports player

Participation as a sportsman and sportswoman takes two forms: an informal sporting or sporting practice for all to have fun and/or aiming at the socio-economic benefits of sport, which includes school, sport’s school, a social inclusion, etc.

A formal sports practice which aims for the high-performance sports results on the international sports scene, including on Olympic and Paralympic Movement.