SPORT FOR ALL: WHY?
Guide with the analysis
We can start by pointing out that it is the duty of all communities in their dynamic to contemplate and respect the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, whose principles are centred on (Article 3 – General principles) (United Nations, 2006):
With the development of the health area, theoretical models leading to the individual’s view on health have been changing over the years, modifying terminologies and their definitions. In this evolution, the concept of disability as well as the functionality and disability of the individual stands out.
Thus, the current approach to the concept of capacity / disability is biopsychosocial in nature, since it integrates both biological issues and social and individual issues into the concept of disability. Thus, the functionality of an individual is an interaction between the health condition and the contextual factors, which encompass environmental factors (physical, social and attitudinal environment) and personal factors (personal characteristics, history and lifestyle), thus having a focus on the impact that contextual factors have on the individual’s life through their health status (World Health Organization, 2007).
Sport is an integral part of the context of all individuals and also in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, persons with disabilities have equal rights with regard to access to recreational, leisure and sport activities in the “Article 30 – Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport”, and their participation should be encouraged (United Nation, 2006).
However, despite the benefits of sport for people with disabilities, their participation in this area is still precarious, with many barriers being found both in the school context and in the club context (Martin, Alves & Duarte, 2012).
Barriers to physical activity focus on personal, social and environmental factors (Martin, 2013). Personal factors encompass attitudinal issues associated with disability, such as discrimination (Koldoff & Holtzclaw, 2015). Also fear of the unknown, concerns about need and lack of care (Rimmer, Riley, Wang, Rauworth, & Jurkowski, 2004), avoidance of physical activity (Verschuren, Wiart, Hermans & Ketelaar, 2012), lack of confidence in their own abilities (DePauw & Gavron, 2005; Devine et al, 2017; Haegele, Zhu and Davis, 2017; Misener & Darcy, 2014; Shield, Synnot and Barr, 2012; UNESCO, 2015; Variety, 2017) and to overprotection, sometimes the family or support staff have not been educated on the importance and broad range of benefits of physical activity. Economic issues are also a relevant factor (Rimmer et al., 2004).
The social factors are related to dependence on others (Scholl, McAvoy, Rynders & Smith, 2003; cit in Martin, 2013), the fact that they understand that the community is not prepared to adapt, and the lack of adequate materials (Lieberman & MacVicar, 2003, cit in Martin, 2013). The family may also be a barrier of overprotection (Rimmer et al., 2004) or a facilitating factor in encouraging participation in sports activities (Shapiro & Malone, 2016).
The environmental factors are related to the lack of places to develop the sport (Martin, 2013) or its non-adaptability. This is because the environment is naturally inaccessible, and it is common to find narrow doors, inexistence of ramps, reduced circulation spaces, slippery floors, among others (Rimmer et al., 2004).
In general, the following barriers stand out: the scarcity of clubs in the community; the lack of professional training and/ or the unavailability of qualified trainers; lack of knowledge of the complex needs of young people with disabilities; the lack of adapted sports equipment / materials; financial constraints; the lack of awareness of issues of accessibility; the existence of prejudiced behaviour (Cardoso, 2011) and also the policy practice gap.
However, in its recreational, therapeutic and competitive aspects, sport emerges as a means of enhancing social interaction and of improving overall the physical, social and psychological functioning of the individual (Yazicioglu,Yavuz, Goktepe & Tan, 2012).
According to the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020, one in six people in the European Union has a disability- around 80 million persons with disabilities in Europe – and measures are needed to promote a more inclusive society and to combat the barriers imposed on people with disabilities (European Commission, 2010).
In the progress report, as the European population is getting older, the number of people with disabilities tends to increase (EuropeanCommission, 2017).
To promote actions related to social inclusion in and through sport of persons with disabilities is one of the conclusions of the Council of 18 November 2010 on the role of sport as a source of active social inclusion (2010/C326/04). This document also reveals that “Access to and participation in diverse aspects of sport is important for personal development, an individual’s sense of identity and belonging, physical and mental wellbeing, empowerment, socialcompetences and networks, intercultural communication and employability”.
In general, it can be seen that people with disabilities who do physical activity have a better quality of life and a higher personal satisfaction than those with disabilities who are not involved in any sport activity (Yazicioglu, Yavuz, Goktepe & Tan, 2012). Thus, it can be seen that disabled individuals who practice sport have more confidence in their abilities, maintain closer relations of friendship and have lower levels of solitude (Shapiro & Martin, 2014). The feeling of belonging will also allow a greater predisposition for social interaction, enabling an improvement of effective participation in society (Martin, Alves & Duarte, 2012).
So the benefits for persons with disabilities are focused on: increased self-esteem; functional and wellbeing improvements; social integration; higher level of independence; higher rates of academic success; reduction or
prevention of secondary conditions including: – high blood pressure; high cholesterol; diabetes; depression; fatigue; liver or gallbladder problems; preoccupation with weight; early maturation; pressure sores (Rimmer et al., 2010;Lakowski & Long, 2011; Hannon et al., 2005).
The different dimensions and specificities of sport are addressed in the White Paper on Sport – social dimension and economic dimension – in particular with regard to the disabled population, is intended to “Use the potential of sport to promote social inclusion, integration and equality of opportunities “, which points out the need to develop specific criteria to ensure equal opportunities for access to sport (European Commission, 2007).
In this way, eight areas of action were defined: Accessibility, Participation, Equality, Employment, Education and training, Social protection, Health, and External Action. So, full access and participation in recreational and sport activities is one of the EU’s areas of action under the European Disability Strategy 2010-2020 (European Commission, 2010).
Thus, despite the barriers to participation of people with disabilities, they should not be impeding access to sport regardless of the functionality and type of disability of the individual. For this reason, a social, physical and professional restructuring is essential to promote the inclusive process (Martin, Alves & Duarte, 2012).