Tagged with: adaptive awareness disabilities inclusive sports
In my professional roles, I read volumes of academic research every day about many aspects of life of people with disabilities. As I comb through the 20 or 30 pages of various articles, I am searching for the concrete take-away points. I recently read a number of research articles on the topic of stigma and people with disabilities; the articles left me with the following take-away point:
Sports and Adaptive Sports can be used as a tool to remove stigma for people with disabilities.
When you look up the definition of stigma in the dictionary it means “a mark or token of infamy or disgrace”. In Medical terms, stigma has historically meant “a mark of abnormality”. Academic literature defines stigma as “a social concept that is based on individual or group differences and results in the lessening of a person.”[i]
The study I read confirmed that stigma toward people with disabilities is widespread. In this particular study, the author classified stigma by the views held by people without disabilities of people with disabilities. Their views were measured in terms of perceived competence or ability of an individual and the perception of the degree of warmth or friendliness that a person shows.[ii]
The study results indicated that people with disabilities are often perceived as being very friendly and less competent than those without disabilities. This perception of disability resulted in feelings of pity, sympathy, or disrespect from people without disabilities.[iii]
The take-away point:
People without disabilities frequently hold mistaken views about people with disabilities which contribute to negative reactions and perceptions.
Strategies identified within current research to lessen stigma include direct and extended contact with people with disabilities.
I have found that people’s misperceptions of my disability decrease the more I engage and interact with them. When I start to have extended contact with people, their views about me begin to change. They begin to disregard the presence of my walking poles or the visible features of my Spastic Cerebral Palsy. Over time, the invisible line of separation between “disabled vs. non-disabled” starts to diminish.
Sports and Adapted Sports can serve as a means for people, regardless of whether they have disability, to engage and take part in a structured physical activity with the same goal. Adapted Sport is defined as “a continuum of developmental, competitive, inclusive, or disability-specific sport opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”[iv] Research shows that Sports and Adaptive Sports for people with disabilities are not as prevalent as options available for people without disabilities.[v]
The studies that I reviewed show that when youth without disabilities directly engage with youth with disabilities in Sports and Adapted Sports, perceptions of people with disabilities are more positive. [vi] There is agreement within current literature that participation in sports can help youth “learn competencies, assets, and values.”[vii]
The take-away point:
When people without disabilities interact with people with disabilities through sports or adapted sports, mistaken perceptions can change. Negative perceptions can change to positive perceptions and all youth can learn similar skills and values.
Current research highlights the following requisites for the development of Inclusive Sports and Adaptive Sports programming:
- Sports and competition have to be developmentally appropriate – so everyone can engage and participate at a similar level; although it is important to note that this does not mean everyone will do it the same way.
- Programs need to combine skill-building with adaption. One cited example was seated volley ball, where youth with and without disabilities learned serving and passing skills while they sat on the floor; and [viii]
- Participants need to able to experience all of the roles and functions that happen when a game is played.[ix]
The take-away point:
Sports and Adapted Sports can serve as a means for people without disabilities to start to see the skills, talents, and contributions of people with disabilities. By participating in a sport with their peer, they start to see an image of a person beyond their diagnosis. Our Health, Fitness, and Wellness fields need to create more opportunities for people with and without disabilities to engage.
Literature identifies Adapted Sports as a continuum of options that serve people with disabilities, yet not enough opportunities exist, particularly inclusive opportunities. Our Health, Fitness, and Wellness Fields, need to continue to create and expand the continuum of inclusive and adapted sport opportunities. What are your thoughts?
[i] Phemister, A. A., & Crewe, N. M. (2004). Objective Self-Awareness and Stigma: Implications for Persons with Visible Disabilities. The Journal of Rehabilitation, 70(2), 33+.
[ii] Barg, C. J., Armstrong, B. D., Hetz, S. P., & Latimer, A. E. (2010). Physical Disability, Stigma, and Physical Activity in Children. International Journal Of Disability, Development & Education, 57(4),
[iii] Barg, C. J., Armstrong, B. D., Hetz, S. P., & Latimer, A. E. (2010). Physical Disability, Stigma, and Physical Activity in Children. International Journal Of Disability, Development & Education, 57(4),
[iv] Sherrill, C. (2006, Spring). Integration and Inclusion: Changing Meanings. Palaestra, 22(2),
[v] Groff, D. G., Lundberg, N. R., & Zabriskie, R. B. (2009). Influence of adapted sport on quality of life: Perceptions of athletes with cerebral palsy. Disability & Rehabilitation, 31(4), 318-326. doi:10.1080/09638280801976233
[vi] Barg, C. J., Armstrong, B. D., Hetz, S. P., & Latimer, A. E. (2010). Physical Disability, Stigma, and Physical Activity in Children. International Journal Of Disability, Development & Education, 57(4),
[vii] Jones, M. I., Dunn, J. H., Holt, N. L., Sullivan, P. J., & Bloom, G. A. (2011). Exploring the ‘5Cs’ of Positive Youth Development in Sport. Journal Of Sport Behavior, 34(3), 250-267.
[viii] Davis, R., Rocco-Dillon, S., Grenier, M., Martinez, D., & Aenchbacker, A. (2012). Implementing Disability Sports in the General Physical Education Curriculum: Everyone Can Play These Sports with Enjoyment. JOPERD–The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 83(5), 35+.
[ix] Groff, D. G., Lundberg, N. R., & Zabriskie, R. B. (2009). Influence of adapted sport on quality of life: Perceptions of athletes with cerebral palsy. Disability & Rehabilitation, 31(4), 318-326. doi:10.1080/09638280801976233