Introduction Sport is a significant part of this world; it acts as a social construction (DePauw & Gavron, 1995). It offers individuals a time to socialise and build a relationship with each other. Individuals with disabilities have always been present in society, although they experienced exclusion and not recognised as a “normal” person. In terms of sport, mentally retarded persons were thought to not understand the rules of the sport and therefore were left out.
Physically disabled were thought of not having the ability to participate and therefore they were excluded from sport participation. In earlier times, a disability was defined as a person with a physical impairment. In today’s world, the preferred terminology is using the person first, for example, person with a disability or individual with a physical impairment. So people with disabilities were being respected and acknowledged by society. A person can be classified as being mentally disabled or physically disabled.
Physically disabled means to have amputated limbs and intellectually disabled means that a person suffers from a mental, social, cultural and emotional state, which does not allow them to live normal lives because they do not have the appropriate life skills (Special Olympics, 2010). For the past one hundred years, individuals with selected disabilities have participated in the sporting world, but these athletes have not received the recognition they deserve and more important, accepted as athletes.
The sporting movement for individuals with disabilities has changed significantly over the past forty years. Public awareness has increased and as a result, more and more individuals with disabilities are confident participating in sport. Furthermore, sporting organisations developed programmes for athletes with disabilities with the intention of attracting more athletes to experience a whole new world. Sport as a whole or organised sport, had challenges that they needed to overcome.
Challenges such as, inclusion of people with disabilities to the sporting environment, access to sport, sport modification, the issues in sport and disability, discovering and implementing strategies for coaching athletes with disabilities. Discussion Sport is loved all around the world, whether you are poor or rich. Sport is not only highly visible, but also touches almost everyone as a participant, spectator or consumer. Sport brings people together, and because it is so pervasive in society and seen as an equalizer and a means of acceptance, individuals with disabilities want access to sport (DePauw & Gavron, 1995).
Disability sport is sport played by individuals with disabilities, such as physical and intellectual disabilities. The sports that these individuals play are existing sports, modified for people with disabilities, they are also referred to as adapted sports. Sport is broken down into categories specific to people’s disability, including handicapped sports, sport for the disabled, adapted sport, disabled sport, wheelchair sport and deaf sport. These terms identifies the type of disability and the sport environment designed for individuals with disabilities.
Organised sport for people with disabilities is divided into three groups, namely, persons with physical disability, persons with intellectual disability and the deaf. Each group has its own history and is run by its own organisation, with its own approach to sport. Organised sport for people with physical disabilities such as, mobility disability, amputations, cerebral palsy and blindness developed from rehabilitation programs. After the Second World War, injured ex-service members and civilians, introduced sport as a key part of rehabilitation. It was introduced by Ludwig Guttman of Stoke Mandeville Hospital in England.
In 1948, Ludwig Guttman set up a competition for wheelchair athletes, following the 1948 Olympic Games in London. As a result this transformed into the Stoke Mandeville Games, commonly known today as the Paralympics. The Paralympics Games are a major international multi-sport event, where people with physical disabilities compete. Paralympics is governed by the International Paralympics Committee (IPC) (Paralympics Games, 2010)
Organised sport for people with intellectual disabilities purpose is to provide year round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community (Special Olympics New Zealand, 2007).
Special Olympics was founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1962 by a summer day camp she created for adults and children with intellectual disabilities in Maryland, to explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activity.
In 1968 the first International Special Olympics were held in Soldier Field in Chicago, where over 1000 athletes competed in track and field and swimming events. By the year 1971 the United States Olympic Committee gave Special Olympics official approval as one of only two organizations authorized to use the name “Olympics” in the United States. In 1988, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) signed an agreement with Sargent and the founder of Special Olympics, where the IOC officially endorses and recognises Special Olympics.
In the same year, bowling, softball and volleyball became the first official games to be included in the Special Olympics. In 2003, the first Special Olympics World Summer games were held in Ireland and over 5000 athletes participated in the landmark, making it the largest sporting event in 2003 and capturing the hearts and imaginations of thousands of people (Special Olympics, 2010). Deaf sport can be defined as sport in which Deaf athletes compete; a parallel unit to able-bodied (hearing) sport in which athletes with hearing impairments participate (DePauw & Gavron, 1995).
However, athletes with hearing impairments and deafness are not usually considered as part of disabled sport, but with any limitation to the human body, a person is classified as disabled (DePauw & Gavron, 1995). Organised sport for deaf athletes has been present in our society for decades. A deaf Frenchman, E. Rubens-Alcais, is credited with creating the first International Silent Games. Formal international competition in deaf sport began with the 1924 Paris Silent Games, organized by the Comite International des Sports des Sourds, CISS (The International Committee of Sports for the Deaf) [Disabled World, 2010].
The organisation is known today as the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf. Their purpose is to create more and better athletes with higher standards for excellence, a significant level of international recognition, an increased and sound budget, and an efficient and effective organization (International Committee of Sports for the Deaf, 2010). These games evolved into the modern Deaflympics, governed by the CISS. The CISS maintains separate games for deaf athletes based on their numbers, their special communication needs on the sports field, and the social interaction that is a vital part of sports.
In order to qualify for the games, athletes must have a hearing loss of 55db in their “superior ear”. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are not allowed to be worn during competition, as it puts all athletes on the same level. All through the 1900’s, sport opportunities for athletes with disabilities has increased tremendously. Since there are major international organisations managing the different categories of athletes with disabilities, there are multitudes of sport and recreation opportunities for individuals with disabilities found in their local communities (DePauw & Gavron, 1995).
Community sport contributes a great deal towards the development of sport, not only to disabled people but also to everyone involved. Through sport, people without disabilities encounter individuals with disabilities in a positive environment and sometimes for the first time, and see them (the athletes) accomplish things that they previously thought impossible. Sport is a great driving force for education. In the athletic arena, disability becomes a characteristic rather than a defining principle (Joukowsky, Rothstein & Reeve, 2002).
When sports event becomes integrated, the focus turns from the person with a disability to a man or woman who stands out of everyone else with the fastest time or a great shot. Integration provides athletes with disabilities to show what they are really made of, when it comes to their event or sport. It provides a perfect venue where actions speak louder than words. Integration removes all barriers to athletes with disabilities and this allows them to feel more included in the sporting environment. Nevertheless, sport has its challenges in relation to athletes with disabilities.
The challenges that sport had to face with disability are those of inclusion of athletes with disabilities, limited means to encourage athletes with disabilities to participate in sport (public recognition), transportation is not accessible for athletes, difficult to locate coaches who is capable of coaching athletes with disabilities, classification issues, revenue issues and how sport can be adapted to include them. The sport most popular to athletes with physical disabilities is without a doubt, wheelchair basketball.
Wheelchair basketball started as a rehabilitation activity for injured men in the Second World War and since then has developed into an organised and well-liked sport for individuals in a wheelchair (Paciorek & Jones, 1994). However, people in wheelchairs are often considered to be fragile and too weak to participate in recreation activities before identifying their ability. For example, in a physical education class from personal experience, an individual was left out because he/she was in a wheelchair and did not participate in the activity because the teacher was afraid that other students would injure the pupil.
In this situation, the teacher could have modified the activity so that the individual could take part, or been given a duty or role in the activity such as a referee or umpire. This is a big problem in our society today, not including athletes with disabilities in the natural environment. They (the athletes with disabilities) already feel left out or out of place because of their disability, and excluding them makes them feel even more unwanted and as a result, it discourages them from playing sport and lessens their self-esteem. Inclusion plays a big role in disability and sport.
Sport works to improve the inclusion and well-being of persons with disabilities in two ways; by changing what communities think and feel about persons with disabilities and by changing what persons with disabilities think and feel about themselves. If communities change the way they think and feel about people with disabilities, stigma and discrimination will be reduced and by changing what persons with disabilities think about themselves, will empower them so that they may recognise their own potential and this may reduce isolation of persons with disabilities and integrate them in community life.
Athletes with physical disability in wheelchairs have little means of transport and this means that they have no form of transport to get to their game and sporting activities. However, with the advances of technology, public transport made it easier for them to get around. Bus services allow wheelchairs on board with a wider passage and a wheelchair accessible section. The taxi service upgraded their minivans so that they could transport wheelchairs and allow persons with disabilities to have that independence. The key to success of athletes with disabilities is training.
Training is done by coaches and finding coaches with the ability to train and work with persons with disabilities, is quite hard to find. Coaching people with disabilities, coaches need patience; they need to have the ability to identify the best way athletes learn and their preferred learning channel. Coaching athletes with disabilities requires many of the same skills as coaching able-bodied athletes. A coach should treat athletes as individuals, and should understand their individual differences and capabilities.
Coaches should maximise these qualities to the fullest so that each athlete can realise his or her potential (DePauw & Gavron, 1995). As a result Professional preparation and knowledge increases the likelihood that a program will be effective and will provide a sufficiently challenging experience for participants with disabilities. For example, Lincoln University’s Bachelor of Sport and Recreation Management degree, offers a course (Community Health, RECN 210) that advises students about people with disabilities.
For athletes with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics provide year round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults. Special Olympics are the most recognisable disabled organisation around the world (Paciorek & Jones, 1994). Nevertheless, the athletes involved with the Special Olympics are not as recognisable. Athletes with intellectual disability are well recognised because they are not in wheelchairs, so they have a slightly upper hand on persons with physical disabilities.
Through sports training and competition, people with mental retardation benefit physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. Persons with intellectual disabilities have a better opportunity today to become a part of the general society. For the fact that people with intellectual disability cannot live a normal life, society and organisations are assisting them to live a normal life, such as develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in sharing gifts, skills and friendship. An example of developing those aspects is through a community support workers.
Support workers teach persons with intellectual disabilities the basics of how to be independent and what skills to integrate for everyday life. Independent House Connelly Trust is an organisation that employs support workers in order to teach persons with intellectual disabilities how to be independent. Furthermore, by having organisations like this in communities, athletes with intellectual disabilities will be able to travel on their own to participate in sport and less adaption to sport for athletes with mental retardation is necessary. Classification in sport has existed for since the beginning of organised sport.
In earlier times, classification was used to and still is today in some organised sport, to categorise the use of different muscle mass. It also classified athletes by sex and the exclusion of women and the development of separate events for men and women (DePauw & Gavron, 1995). Classification today for athletes with disabilities extended its variation in the ability to move. The goal of classification is enable each competitor regardless of severity of impairment, to compete in the same manner as other athletes with similar ability or disability. The first form of classification that was used was the medical classification.
The development of this medical classification system was based upon the level of spinal cord lesion. This system was designed to enable individuals with similar severity of impairments to compete more fairly against one another. This classification was soon taken over by the functional classification system. Although the medical classification system was constituted as a “levelling factor between physical capacity and competitivity” (DePauw & Gavron, 1995, p. 120). The use of the medical system reduced the competitive aspect of the Paralympics sport.
The new functional system requires that athletes be evaluated on what they can and cannot do in a particular sport. Athletes are then assigned to a class based on a functional profile. Equipment for sport usage is a very important aspect for athletes, especially athletes with disabilities. Whether it is a prosthetic leg or a racing wheelchair, the equipment must fit the individual. Equipment can be adapted at home or in a laboratory, the most important thing is that the equipment has a good fit and be safe utilizing equipment (DePauw & Gavron, 1995). An example of adapted equipment is a golf club for a person in a wheelchair.
The club is made shorter for easier control and the individual is comfortable playing with it. However, adapted equipment cannot be possible without the advances of technology. Advances in technology have greatly enhanced the performances of athletes with disabilities on and off the field. Cycling research has been applied to wheelchairs and as a result, wheelchairs are lighter and are much easier to get around. Changes in wheelchair design have also been included, with various wheel sizes and hand rims so that individuals can be more comfortable in sport and in everyday life.
Sport and adapted equipment exist for every sport in which an individual with disability wishes to participate (DePauw & Gavron, 1995). Disability sports have come a long way since its beginnings in the 19th century. Not only has sport changed but so has sport for and including individuals with disabilities. Athletes with disabilities have experienced a different attitude to the sporting with increasingly greater inclusion and an acceptance within their communities. With disability sport programs, athletes with disabilities have experienced great inclusion within the Olympic arena.
In keeping with the development, athletes with disabilities will find themselves with increasingly more opportunities to compete with able-bodied athletes. For the sporting sector to reduce the challenges they face in relation to athletes with disabilities, they need to; include persons with disabilities in their education materials, encourage service providers and sports clubs to target person with disabilities for inclusion in their activities, educate physical education teachers on methods of adaption and inclusion in sport.
Furthermore, they need to develop educational campaigns that use positive images of athletes with disabilities involved in sport. Conclusion In short, sport has become a viable option for individuals with disabilities. It is now up to professionals to assist in the further development of sport for and including individuals with disabilities. Therefore it is important that professionals be knowledgeable about sport and disability and its complexity.
Athletes with disabilities today have greater opportunities for sport participation and competition than in past times, through better recognition in disabled sports via the media. The end result for athletes with disabilities is that they have great options in the world today. Sport for tomorrow, will be a path of socialisation for people with disabilities in the same way that sport serves the people without disabilities today. References DePauw, K. P. & Gavron, S. J. (1995). Disability and Sport. United States of America: Human Kinetics. International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (2010).
About. Retrieved 6 October 2010 from http://www. deaflympics. com/about/index. asp? ID=1107 International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (2010). About. Retrieved 6 October 2010 from http://www. deaflympics. com/about/index. asp? DID=545 Joukowsky III, A. A. W, Rothstein, L & Reeve, C. (2002). Raising the Bar: New Horizons in Disability Sport. New York: Umbrage Editions. Paciorek, M. J. & Jones, J. A. (1994). Sports and Recreation for the Disabled (2nd Ed. ).
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