Chapter IV

The evolution of the organizational structure of sport for persons with disabilities comprises two periods and four phases, starting from the establishment of sport clubs (segregated) for persons with disabilities in the 19th century to the present day.

The two periods refer to the time before and after the Arnhem Seminar, which took place in the Netherlands in March 1987, in which 23 resolutions were adopted, two of which we highlight:

One of the recommendations was to move from an organizational structure based on the medical and disability model to a sport-based one that has sport as its essence and political purpose;

The other was to develop a sports system and its structures for inclusion within the International Olympic Committee and International Sports Federations.

These two great periods comprise about 130 years (1888-2018) and are divided into four phases:

  • The first phase (1888-1948) starts with the emergence of the first clubs and / or the practice of physical and sport activity for persons with disabilities until the first Stoke Mandeville National Games, held in 1948 in London. (www.paralympic.org/ipc/history);
  • The second phase (1948-1989) begins, following the Stoke Mandeville National Games, with the structuring of the sporting system for persons with disabilities and runs until the Arnhem Seminar in the Netherlands in March 1987, when a new sport model is defined and with the foundation of International Paralympic Committee (IPC);
  • The third phase (1989-2005) is characterized by the evolution of the sport structure from the disability-based medical model to a new model based on sport and the integration of disabled athletes into the structures of regular or conventional sport;
  • The fourth phase (2005-2019), corollary of the previous phase, begins the process of “Transfer of Governance” and the inclusion of athletes and their framing structures in the regular structures of sport.

FIRST PHASE 1888-1948


Chapter IV

The IPC in the “History of the Paralympic Movement” refers to the existence in 1888 of the first deaf sports club in Berlin. (https://www.paralympic.org/ipc/history).

Among the many biographical references regarding the American athlete Ray Ewry who won eight Olympic medals (1900, 1904 and 1908) on the Lafayette Urban Ministry website comes to corroborate that the athlete in 1899 became a member of the New York Athletic Club. lumserve.wordpress.com

George Eyser was another disabled American athlete (lower limb amputee) who won 6 medals at the St. Louis Olympic Games in gymnastics, and was a member of the local club Concordia Turnverein, according to a BBC news source “iWonder – Spirit in Motion: a Paralympic history” program: www.bbc.com/timelines

We highlight two important initiatives that are in the genesis of the creation of the world sports movement for persons with disabilities, the first being the first World Games for the Deaf and the creation of the International Committee of Sports des Sourds (CISS), which took place in 1924 in Paris. The second was the first Stoke Mandeville National Games in Aylesbury, near London.

With the creation of an organization for deaf athletes, the creation of disability-based sports facilities began, leading to the 1948 Stoke Mandeville Games for spinal cord injuries.

We conclude analyzing this first phase, by referring to important events that contributed to increasing and accelerating the participation of persons with disabilities, which were the need to respond to the victims of the first and second World War, civilians and military, who acquired one or multiple forms of disability. The other was Dr. Ludwig Gutmann’s initiative to introduce into the rehabilitation program of the National Spinal Injuries Center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital (1944) the practice of physical activity and sport as a means of prevention, rehabilitation and social inclusion of persons with disabilities.

SECOND PHASE 1948-1989


Chapter IV

The March 1987 Seminar in Arnhem was a milestone that has contributed to the shift towards a sport-based model, with the aim of including athletes with disabilities in regular sport structures from the base through sports clubs to reach the top, including the International Sports Federations (IFs) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The sports system based on the model on disability had the following evolution, from 1948 to 1989:

  1. In 1949 Sir Ludwig Gutmann, after the 1948 Stoke Mandeville National Games, in an interview with the Cord Magazine (The Cord, 1949, 3, 24, reiterated in the Gutmann, 1976, 24) expressed his view of parallelism in relation to athletes, Olympic Games and Movement.
  2. In 1949 the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD) was formed, becoming the first International Sports Federation (IFs) for the disabled.
  3. In 1952 the first Stoke Mandeville International Games are held which give rise to the constitution of the International Stoke Mandeville Games Federation (ISMGF). This organization is for spinal cord injuries (quadriplegic and paraplegic injuries due to spinal cord injuries, later polio, spina bifida, etc.). The ISMGF subsequently adopted the name International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF) which merges with the International Sports Organization for the Disabled (ISOD) and forms the International Wheelchair & Amputee Sport Federation (IWAS). www.iwasf.com 
  4. In 1960, the International Sports Organization for the Disabled (ISOD) is created to include other motor disabilities that were not part of the ISMGF, namely amputees, cerebral palsy, Les Autres (other types of motor disabilities) included neither in the spinal cord injuries nor in the amputees or cerebral palsy, such as achondroplasia, dysmelia, dwarfism, etc.), and also intellectual disability, referred to as mental at the time.
  5. In 1960, at the initiative of Guttmann, the first Paralympic Games in Rome took place, with the participation of spinal cord injuries only. These Games that coincided with the Olympics in the same year, country and city reinforce Guttmann’s vision after coinciding with the 1948 London and Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games.
  6. In 1968, the Special Olympics (SO) was created for persons with intellectual disabilities and associated deficits, which may include visual, hearing, and motor disabilities, including standing and wheelchair athletes.
  7. In 1978, the Cerebral Palsy International Recreation and Association (CPISRA) is created, representing the cerebral palsy (CP), acquired brain injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and no longer belonging to ISOD. CPISRA originated in a sport and recreation subcommittee of the International Cerebral Palsy Society (ICPS) (cpisra.org).
  8. In 1980 the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) was created for blind and low vision people.
  9. In 1982 the International Co-coordinating Committee for Sports in the World (ICC) was created to form the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), which was established in 1987. The main objectives of the ICC were to coordinate and represent the International Organizations for the Disabled (IOSDs), including the deaf (ICSD / CISS), later intellectual disability (INASFID, ex INAS-FMH) as well as organizing multisport events, notably the Paralympic Games.
  10. In 1986, the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability (INASFID, denomination adopted after 1994) was created, initially called INAS-FMH by reference to athletes with mental handicap.
  11. In 1987, the World Transplant Games Federation was created for recipients of organ, tissue and cell transplants, as well as living donors and donor families, which hold the first Games in 1978 in Portsmouth, southern England.
  12. In the seventies and eighties some sports such as wheelchair tennis (International Wheelchair Tennis Federation, IWTF, 1988), wheelchair basketball (International Wheelchair Basketball Federation, IWBF, 1989) began to become autonomous from their respective IOSDs to be constituted as an IFs.

This process has not stopped nor is it finished.

  • The International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD, 1949) was the first IFs to be created, originated and supervised by the ICSD / Deaflympics, which is both an IOSD and Paralympic Movement for the Deaf. In Deaf Sport or Deaflympics we have the following IFs: Deaf International Basketball Federation (DIBF, 2001), Deaf International Football Association (DIFA) and World Deaf Golf Federation (WDGF).
  • Seated volleyball (World Organization Volleyball for the Disabled, WOVD, 1992), wheelchair rugby (International Wheelchair Rugby Federation, IWRF, 1993) are some examples of organisations for motor or locomotor dysfunction.
  • The Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association (CPISRA) gave birth in 2013 to the Boccia International Sport Federation (BISFed) and the 7th Football (International Football Cerebral Palsy Federation, IFCPF, 2015).
  • In the intellectual area, namely for Down Syndrome, six IFs were constituted. The first was in 2001 and is Down Syndrome International Swimming Organization (DSISO). The remaining ones are: International Athletics Association for People with Down Syndrome (IAADS, 2008), Down Syndrome International Gymnastics Association (DSIGO), Football International Federation for Players with Down Syndrome (FIFDS), Judo for Down Syndrome (JUDOWN) and Skiing for persons with Down Syndrome (SKIDS). These IFs formed an umbrella organization in 2012, called the Sports Union for Athletes with Down Syndrome (SUDS).



Table 4

Table 4 below summarizes, in the first column, the four IOC recognized International Sports Organizations that are responsible for the Summer and Winter Games, which are parallel to the Olympic Games.
IPC International Paralympic Committee Intellectual (Intellectual Area) Intellectual disability
Blind (Blindness and low vision); (sensory area) Visual impairment
Cerebral palsy (Motor area) Hypertonia; Ataxia; Athetosis
Amputees (Motor area) Limb deficiency
Spinal Cord Injury (Motor area) Impaired muscle power;
“Les Autres (Motor area) Impaired passive range of movement; Limb deficiency; Leg length difference; Short stature
ICSD Deaflympics Deaf (Sensory Area) Deaf
WTGF Transplant Transplants (Organic area) Recipients of organ, tissue and cell transplants, as well as living donors and donor families.
SO Special Olympics Intellectual (Intellectual Area) Intellectual disability
SUDUS – Sports Union for athletes with Down Syndrome Intellectual (Intellectual Area) Intellectual disability

In the middle column are identified, according to the four International Movements the four areas of disability sports covered, which are: Intellectual, Sensory (Blind and Deaf), Motor and Organic (Transplant).

The areas of disability corresponded, according to the medical, general and segregated classification to a total of 8 categories of disability, namely:

  • Intellectual Area (ex-mental) – Intellectual;
  • Sensory Area – Hearing impairment (deaf) and visual (blind, sports designation comprising blindness and low vision);
  • Motor Area – with four categories, according to the topographic location of the lesion if it is cerebral palsy (central nervous system injury, located in the head), spinal cord injuries (spinal cord injury, cervical, lumbar and sacred), amputees ( lesion or anomaly in the upper or lower limbs) and “Les Autres”, which include other motor disabilities that are not part of cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries or amputees;
  • Organic Area – refers to recipients of organ, tissue and cell transplants, and donors and family members who are donors are also eligible.

In the third column we match the “Eligible Impairment” of the functional classification to the general classification deficiency categories.

From the analysis between the system and the regular or conventional structure compared to sport for people with disabilities, the similarities and differences are as follows:

  1. The organizational structure is similar according to the geographical dimension, both having the structure by country, at the intermediate level the regions and at the top the international level.
  2. Regarding the typology of organizations, the situation is as follows:
  • Olympic / Paralympic – There is only the IOC for conventional sport and, on the Paralympic side, there are not one but four equivalent organizations which are the IPC (Paralympics), ICSD (Deaflympics), WTGF (Transplants) and Special Olympics.
  • Multisport Confederate Structure, we have SportAccord for both conventional sport and IF sport. The equivalent structure does not exist on the part of sport for persons with disabilities, but there are disability-based and multi-sport organizations such as IWAS (amputees and spinal cord injuries), IBSA (blind and low vision), CPISRA (cerebral palsy), INASFID and SUDUS (intellectual), ICSD (Deaflympics) and WTGF (transplanted).
  • As for the IFs, the situation is uneven, varing from one federation to the situation of multiple Federations, as happens with the football modality that is not under FIFA’s supervision, leading to the existence of powerchair football (FIPFA – Federation Internationale de Powerchair Football Association), International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), Football seven for cerebral palsy (IFCPF), Deaf Football (DIFA), and football for down syndrome (Football International Federation for players with Down Syndrome – FIFDS) and football for amputees (World Amputee Football Federation).

We grouped the Federations into four groups for better analysis, as shown below:

  • IFs / IOSD – are the International Organization of Sport for the Disabled (IOSDs) that oversee a particular area or type of disability, which is responsible for and regulates, internationally, the modality as with IWAS, CPISRA, INASFID, ICSD, WTGF, SO, IBSA and SUDUS. The IBSA, for example, protects the blind and low vision the modalities of futsal and goalball.
  • IFs/IPC World Para Sport – although being a Paralympic Committee and to date there has been no assumption of Governance by the respective International Federation, the IPC under the name of World Para Sports include Para alpine skiing, Para athletics, Para biathlon, Para cross-country skiing, Para dance sport, Para ice hockey, Para powerlifting, Para snowboarding, Para swimming and shooting Para sport).
  • IFs/ IOSD – International Federations have emerged from IOSDs such as CPISRA, Bocce (BISFed) and Football (IFCPF) and IWAS (ISOD and ISWSF) Wheelchair Basketball (IWBF), Wheelchair Rugby wheels (IWRF), etc.
  • IFs/ conventional – correspond to International Sports Federation with responsibilities for Governance over athletes with disabilities such as FEI for equestrian, UCI for cycling, ICF for canoeing, etc.



Table 5



International Disabilities Sport Organization

Olympic and Regular Sports






IPC Paralympic (1989)

Olympic – IOC

ICSD Deaflympic (1924)


WTGF Transplant (1987)


SO Special Olympics (1968)


Confederation / IOSDs





There is no Confederation of sports, but IOSD that disability federations, multi-sport


IWAS (2004) IPC Members


IBSA (1980) IPC members


CPISRA (1978) IPC Members


INASFID (1986) IPC Members


ICSD (Deaflympics)


Transplant Games (WTGF)


SUDUS (Down Syndrome)



 IFs-IOSD (IBSA example oversees Goalball, Futsal)

IFs world wide

IFs-IPC (IPC example under the designation World For Sports supervises Athletics, Swimming)


IFs-specific (example of international, unconventional, sport-specific federations, such as BISFed for Boccia, IFCPF for football seven for cerebral palsy)


Conventional FIs (example of International Federations, with responsibility for Governance for athletes with disabilities such as FEI, for equestrian, UCI for cycling)




NPC Associations

NOC Associations

IOSDs Regions

Africa, America. Asia, Europe, Oceania

SportAccord Regions Organizations

IFs Regions

IFs Regions

IFs Regions



NPC by country

NOC by country


National Sports Organizations for Disabilities



National Sports Federations


Seven notes deserve our mention for the relevance of disability issues in general and in particular for their direct or indirect impact on the organizational model, namely:

  • In 1972, the Scientific Congress Munich, August 21 to 25, was organized by the IOC before the 20th Olympic Games which, for the first time in world sports history, addresses the theme of sport for people with disabilities (UNESCO, 1976; DGD, 1977). www.olympic-museum.de
  • UNESCO publishes a work by Sir Ludwig Guttmann in 1976 entitled “Sport for the physically handicapped”, which, among other topics, addresses in the “Introduction” the first 1972 Munich Olympic Scientific Congress. The work was translated by UNESCO into French and Spanish. It was edited in Portuguese in 1977, in Portugal, by the Directorate-General for Sports (DGD).
  • In 1978 the Arnock Report on Special Education Needs was published, which collaterally provided theoretical and practical support for inclusion in physical education and sports classes at the School.
  • In 1981 the United Nations proclaimed the International Year of Disability.
  • In 1982, the United Nations General Assembly approved the World Program of Action on People with Disabilities under the United Nations Decade of People with Disabilities (1983-1992), which includes, among other subjects, education and training, culture, recreation and sport.
  • In 1984 the Los Angeles Olympic Games include demonstration events for athletes with disabilities.

THIRD PHASE 1989-2004


Chapter IV

Stage Three and Stage Four have in common the fact that the model has in its essence and purpose sport and not disability. According with the ICF – International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health, of the World Health Organization (WHO, 2002), “the ICF model is a person-centred and strengths-based model which exemplifies the broader biopsychosocial definition of health, and in relation to people with health conditions, disabilities and functioning difficulties it focuses on functioning and capacity, as opposed to deficits and inability” (Masdeu, Carty and Clardy, 2019).

What sets them apart is the implementation, in the Fourth Phase of the “Transfer of Governance” process, i.e. the transfer of responsibility of the sport to the respective International Sport Federation.

Two important points to note are the changes in the evolution of the organizational structure of sport, with the creation of the IPC at the international level and, at national level, the process of inclusion in regular sport structures begins in Norway and South Africa.

In this way, the creation of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) in 1989 is fulfilled, thus fulfilling one of the resolutions of the 1987 Arnhem Seminar, although the IPC became active in 1992 after the Barcelona Paralympic Games allowing the International Co-coordinating Committee (ICC) to complete its task of coordinating the summer Paralympic Games, following its dissolution.

Regarding the change in the national structure, the implementation of different models to include people with disabilities in regular sport structures has started in several countries. South Africa has privileged inclusion in sport at the school. In Australia the Australian Paralympic Committee has begun the process of inclusion in its sport federations, namely the swimming.

Norway through the Norwegian Olympic Committee (NOC) and Confederation of Sport (NIF) defined inclusion in 1996 and 1999 respectively as the main task of the two entities. The two Entities defined as their ideal and long-term goal the inclusion in all federated structures, based on the clubs. The two Entities defined the period 1996-2000 to achieve integration in at least 10 to 15 Sports Federations to include all types and degrees of disability and a monthly budget allocation of NOK 5.5 million (equivalent at € 553,000.00).

With the creation of the IPC, cooperation with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is being strengthened, following the Samaranch’s recommendation to the ICC and the IOSDs of the IPC to wish to engage in dialogue with only one interlocutor. In October 2000, on the occasion of the Sydney Paralympic Games, the first Cooperation Agreement was signed with the aim of strengthening the relationship between the two organizations and representing a political recognition of future support for sport for athletes with disabilities, as in fact if it came to check.

The last agreement was signed in 2018 between IOC President Thomas Bach and IPC President Andrew Parsons ensuring continued IOC support for another fourteen years, i.e. until 2032. The previous agreements were established in 2012 until Tokyo 2020. In 2003 the 2001 agreement was readjusted to include the commitment of the Summer and Winter Games Organizers to pay the broadcasting and marketing rights.

While recognizing the importance and specificity of all agreements between the IOC and the IPC from 2000 to 2018, it is nevertheless a milestone in the organization of sporting events, notably

the Paralympic Games, the fact that it was agreed that after the Beijing 2008 the principle of “One Bid, One City” and the same Organizing Committee would apply.

Thus, fifty-two years later, Guttmann’s dream of recognizing the Paralympic athletes and their organizations, the convergence of the Olympic and Paralympic Movement and, in particular, with regard to the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the same year, in the same country, in the same city, use the same sports facilities and Olympic village, and even the Organizing Committee be the same.

This third phase was crucial in terms of restructuring the organizational model as well as recognizing the role and importance of sport for persons with disabilities. This phase is reinforced by the rapid and significant changes in the international arena in the field of sport and disability, including:

  • Participation of athletes with disabilities at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games encouraged, followed by the founding of the IPC in 1989 the creation in 1990 of the Commission for Inclusion of Athletes with a Disability (CIADs).
  • The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, established in 1991, represents, among other entities, the Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
  • In 1992 at the Barcelona Paralympics the system of eligibility and functional classification came into force, reinforcing the sport model based on sport.
  • In 1994, “The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education” was adopted by the World Conference on Special Needs Education: Access and Quality (which took place in Spain in the city of Salamanca from 7 to 10 June) is approved and strengthen the process of inclusion in the fields of physical education and sport in the inclusive school for all.
  • The Disability Sport Model should also be concerned with inclusion systems, methods and techniques, such as Basile’s (1992) proposed concept and social practice controversy when addressing the “Reverse Integration”. (Brasile, F.M.(1992). Inclusion: A Developmental Perspective. A Rejoinder to “Examining the Concept of Reverse Integration”. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly. 9, 293-304.)
  • The concerns and initiatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) in recommending the regular practice of physical activity as well as the adoption of healthy lifestyle, reinforce one of the purposes of sports policy to promote grassroots or sport for all, that should result in an increase in the number of practitioners. For example, the Member States at the May 2002 World Health Assembly mandated that WHO should formulate a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. In May 2004 the World Health Assembly adopted the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.

FOURTH PHASE 2005-2019


Chapter IV

The Transfer of Governance is what matters in this Fourth Phase, a process which is ongoing, as recently happened, on 20-06-2019, in the United States of America with the merger and the move to United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

We highlight three important policy measures that have an impact on the sports policy system, the first at international level, the second in Europe, in particular in the European Union and the third in a country, namely Norway.

  1. International level – In 2005, the first agreement called “Transfer of Governance” between the IPC and the FEI was signed, which initiates the transfer of the sport’s supervision to the respective International Sports Federation. This measure resulted from the agreement between 2000 and 2001 between the IPC and the IOC.
  2. European level – In relation to the European Union, we highlight the changes in terms of sports policy, in particular the production of the White Paper on Sport (2007), which is considered to be the first sports policy document of the European Commission. Subsequently, the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 introduces a specific article on sport (Art. 165 TFEU and Art. 6), which now gives legal powers in the field of sport.
  3. National Level – In the plan we highlight the establishment, from 2007, of the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports, resulting from the process initiated in 1996 by the Norwegian Olympic Committee and in 1999 by the Confederation of Sport aiming at the inclusion. More recently, in 2019, it was the turn of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.