Sports as a tool for changing perceptions

Players from the Single Leg Amputee Sports Club Sierra Leone (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

One billion people or about 15 per cent of the world’s population live with some sort of disability according to the World Disability Report. Highlighting the importance of seeing disabled persons as citizens with a strong capacity to empower communities towards development, Ms. Daniela Bas, Director for DESA’s Division for Social Policy and Development opened a panel discussion on “Sports for Inclusive Development” on 27 June.

Arranged by the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN, the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN and DESA, in collaboration with the Achilles Foundation International, the discussion revolved around the rights of access to sports for persons with disabilities, how this should be addressed in all policies and viewed as a need to express capacities and abilities.

It was also pointed out that this action will continue blurring the line between “them” and “us”, giving priority to sports as a point of junction in reaching development goals.

Mr. Joao Qunitaes of the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the UN, made a reflection on how sports are deeply rooted in the Brazilian culture as an opportunity to gain an improved position, helping people to get better access to health and education. Ms. Ann Cody of the International Paralympic Committee, also remarked, “Sport with its universal popularity and the physical, social and economic development is a very strong tool for inclusion”.

All panelists agreed that upcoming events with large audiences, like the Parapanemarican Games 2011 in Mexico, will continue to be an opportunity for disabled people to have access to more positive settings.

It was also stressed that sport increases opportunities of inclusion and well being of persons with disabilities in various ways; by changing the perception in the community, by abolishing stereotypes and by changing how they look at themselves. The panelists concluded by emphasizing that sport for persons with disabilities is part of recovering their life.

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