Global Perspective: Disability Sport in International Law
Around the world, people have recognized that access to sport by people with disabilities provides benefits both to the individual and society. A resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly identified “Sport as a means to promote education, health, development, and peace.” Specific to people with disabilities, in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 30, Section 5 says that State Parties will “take appropriate measures:
b) To ensure that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to organize, develop and participate in disability-specific sporting and recreational activities and, to this end, encourage the provision, on an equal basis with others, of appropriate instruction, training and resources;
d) To ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities, including those activities in the school system;”
This was seen as so instrumental to the promotion of education, health, development and peace, that the UN created the International Disability in Sport Working Group. India is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and therefore bound by its direction.
Disability Sport in Nations Around the World
Adaptive sports have formed in various ways around the world, largely dependent on popular sports of the region and the ability to form support systems around those sports. In places with snow and mountains, adaptive skiing is popular while adaptive track and field has found participants around the world. In the United States, wheelchair basketball is the most popular adaptive team sport in the country, with sled hockey competing for this spot in some places. In India, blind cricket has found strong interest, with the Indian team winning the World Cup in December 2012. You can find a brief outline of the history of disability sports here.
In a report on the situation of disability sports in Ireland, the National Disability Authority identified barriers for entry to sport as:
- “poor physical education (PE) provision in schools;
- negative school experiences;
- low expectations from teachers, families and peers;
- lack of knowledge of what is available;
- lack of information and expertise;
- poor community facilities and lack of access to facilities and programmes;
- ad hoc structures and approaches;
- transport difficulties;
- lack of coverage of a wide range of sports in the media;
- lack of experience of the benefits of physical activity;
- untrained staff and lack of accessible facilities;
- lack of companions who can facilitate/assist people with disabilities to access facilities and programmes when required;
- inadequate sponsorship and coaching;
- a lack of a culture of general participation in physical exercise and sport in Ireland.”
This exhaustive list presents a series of places that people, policymakers, and organizations can intervene in the poor landscape for participation in adaptive sport. In the UN Report “Harnessing the Power of Sport for Development and Peace: Recommendations to Governments”, this chart is presented as an illustration of the policy implications of supporting sporting rights for people with disabilities. The World Health Organization has also identified sports as an important part of life for people with disabilities. In their report in 2004, WHO looked at what countries around the world were doing to help people with disabilities.