Sports for the disabled is in a terrible state even in the 21st century, when there is so much awareness. Most countries are ill equipped, forcing many disabled people with certain handicaps to give up their dream sport due to their disability. This happens only because of the lack of awareness, money and infrastructure.
A study done by The Department for Culture Arts and Leisure’s (DCAL) draft sports strategy (October 2007) identified a number of groups who have below average rates of participation in sports and physical activity. It tried to check which groups have the lowest participation in sports. One such group is the one with disabled people.
Why does this happen?
We tried to examine some of the reasons why this sector of the population is not given enough representation in the field of sports.
This refers to certain social practices and beliefs within a community and how these impact on self-perceptions and the perceptions of others. Especially how sports is seen as an even that can only be participated by ‘physically fit’ people.
The lack of coverage given my media to certain sporting events like Paralympics is a related issue. It shows how little the media cares about important events such as this just because it is people with disabilities take part in it.
Research suggests, for example, that the result of segregating disability sports from the mainstream has been two-fold. On the one hand the narrow range of disability sports visible in the media has served to marginalize it. At the same time, restricting coverage to ‘serious or more competitive’ sport tends to give the impression that disability sport ‘is a realm accessible only to the gifted’ or elite. Such partiality can be very well seen in simple advertisements. Sport players with disabilities have hardly ever been approached by advertisement firms to be the face of their products. On the other hand, other sport players like Roger Federer or Cristiano Ronaldo can always be seen in advertisements of various products.
The media also heightens the idea of how different an athlete with disability is as compared to other ‘normal’ athletes. During interviews with Disabled People, the media tends to highlight the sob story and the person’s disability rather than the match played or the medal won. It reinforces the idea that a person with disabilities can never be at the same level as a person who is ‘physically fit’.
Media coverage of elite sport for the disabled is improving it still has some way to go as pointed out by Britain (2004) when he compared the 500 hours of prime time Olympic coverage of the Sydney Games by the BBC with the less than one hour a day off peak coverage of the Sydney Paralympic Games on BBC2.
This refers to physical issues, like equipment and other tools that are needed to practice the said sports. The practice materials for the disabled are either difficult to avail or too expensive to actually buy. This has affected people with disabilities since they are unable to take part due to lack of trainers, coaches and infrastructure.
Cost and Economic Barrier
One of the major problems is the economic barrier that creeps into this issue
For example- elite level disability sporting wheelchairs and equipment doesn’t come at a cheap price A prosthetic leg for running is about $25, 000 to $40,000 f Professional basketball and tennis wheelchairs are from titanium for its strength and lightweight properties begin at a whopping $10,000.
Another fact to be noted is the divide of the price money. The Paralympians get only $5,000 from the U.S. Olympic Committee for winning gold medals, whereas Olympians get $25,000 for their gold medals- this is amigo divide. Silver medals are about $15,000 for Olympians, while Paralympians get a mere sum of $3,000. and paint job you’re looking at around $9000. Technologically advanced powerchairs like the iBot retail around $25, 000.
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Equipment-related barriers and facilitators – The main barriers that hamper the disabled people are – There is not enough space between the equipment and the wheel chair- the maintenance is also poor, and the costly equipments are also not well made. Getting a coach willing to have patience and also have the requited skills is next to impossible.
Transport –The public transport in India itself is disgraceful when it comes to aiding the people with disabilities. The buses or training centres don’t have ramps or other tools to help them travel. It gets too difficult, and more often than not the athletes give up training and ditch the sports.
There is still a long way to go before people with disabilities can be seen as equals to non-disabled people. The first thing that can help in overcoming these barriers is eradicating the social stigma that plaques our society saying that disabled people cannot play or participate in certain sports. The governments of the countries should also put special attention and allocate more funds to help training institutions to find capable coaches and buy the essential equipment.
The mainstream media needs to start giving more coverage to events like Paralympics and treat the player like they treat non disabled people that is by focusing on their achievements and not their disability. This issue gets even worse when the disabled person is a female. It is then marred with severe gender discrimination and most of the time the female ends up giving up.
The careers of a non disabled and disabled person starts off the same way. Practice and hard work, yet the journey is relatively much easier for a non disabled person. She or he has to face severe issues with equipment, money and even society. The society too also has added to this, by always shunning sports for the disabled. They are always discouraged and no one to look up to.
In the present situation the only way to help this problem in India is – government support financially, educating the society and a push from the media to cover sports for disabled in a better and more objective way. They should be treated like every other athlete and not be reminded of their disability. Till then there is a long way to go.
Also published on Medium.