The United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs has been very active in promoting the welfare of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). This term is very informative for people who seek to understand and address the situation of these people. They are to be treated as an individual, first and foremost, with their own capabilities and aspirations, before regarding their disabilities and challenges.
The international and local annual events of the Paralympic Games strive to show the world that differently abled individuals can also achieve in the field of sports. However, these kinds of venues for the PWDs could be said to be limited as they are organized events that take place at certain times of the year. Their immediate community such as their families and neighborhoods could work to achieve daily what the UN and the Paralympic Games sought to do – empower PWDs with a nurturing environment and equal opportunities.
Eliminating the Stigma with Sports
Because of their own mental and physical challenges, PWDs experience discrimination and stigmas in society. They experience being questioned and second-guessed when it comes to acquiring similar treatment, equal rights, and opportunities for growth and advancement. They become victims of apathy and differential treatment when it comes to schooling, employment and other aspects of social life.
Through the field of sports, PWDs can have an opportunity to show the rest of the world’s population that they too have abilities and skills of their own to receive recognition and achievements. Through sports, the PWDs could also learn other essential life and social skills such as teamwork, communication, and independence.
Adaptive Sports for PWDs
According to studies, about 20% of the population have disabilities. Other than the personal growth and life skills that could be gained and similar to every other person, PWDs could also gain health and wellness benefits by engaging in sports. There are many sports that PWDs could join, train and excel in. These are called adaptive sports where the rules and equipment are slightly altered to make the games more convenient and enjoyable to PWDs.
An example would be Sitting Volleyball, where the rules are the same as standing volleyball but people are seated down while playing on a shorter net and a smaller court. There is also Wheelchair Basketball which is made accessible to varieties of disabilities. Many of the traditional rules are used with some alterations for dribbling and contact from the wheelchair. Other sports that have been adapted to make them more inclusive are golf, swimming, paddling, and tennis.
Creating a Safe and Nurturing Community Environment
As mentioned above, it is not enough that only by the UN and the Paralympic Games can the PWDs have venues for sports. In their respective communities, inclusive changes can also be made to make sports and recreation an enjoyable activity that is accessible to all. An example would be making the mainstream sports and fitness clubs in their respective communities grant membership and access to PWDs. Local Paralympic games could also be organized with the friends and families of PWDs in the area. They could even be thought of and included in the community’s sports, fitness, and wellness activities.
People in society should not be afraid to interact and communicate with PWDs as this will help them integrate better in society. They should not be discriminated against or treated or spoken to differently. The key is to treat PWDs similarly and equally as any other person in the community. We should see first and foremost their individuality and rights as a human being.