Introduction sport and disability

International development and persons with a disability

Sport can play a key role in the lives and communities of persons with a disability, the same as their peers without a disability. However, additional benefits include:


1. Socialization through sport is particularly valuable for persons with a disability as they often remain in the home environment, protected and guarded by their families. Participation in sport creates peer interaction, co-operative relationships and teamwork.


2. Sport can also play a significant role in reducing the focus on the impairment or disability of the person and places the focus on their abilities. This leads to empowerment and greater self-confidence that can be applied to other realms of life, for example employment.


3. Disability sport programmes serve to strengthen participants both mentally and physically, promote rehabilitation, and facilitate a capacity for self-help. "While sport has value in everyone's life, it is even more important in the life of a person with a disability. This is because of sport's rehabilitative influence, and the fact that it is a means to integrate the person into society?sport teaches independence".


4. Sport can promote the inclusion of girls and women who experience double stigmatization.


5. By involving participants with and without a disability in the same programmes there is increased understanding and sensitivity about one another and it can assist with preventing social exclusion.

Pieter van der Houwen

In short

As the UN Inter-Agency Task Force on Sport and Development stated, "Sport can integrate persons with a disability into society, providing an arena for positive social interaction, reducing isolation and breaking down prejudice. Sports programmes for the disabled are also a cost-effective method of rehabilitation. They are highly therapeutic, improving motor skills and increasing mobility, self-sufficiency and self-confidence."

More info

See also the section more info

Additional information regarding the benefits of 'sport for all' are clearly outlined in the following:

  • Magglingen Declaration (2003) ( pdf)
  • Decalogue on Adapted Sport (2003);
  • UN World Programme of Action Concerning Disabled Persons (1982);
  • UN Standard Rules on the Equalization of Persons with Disabilities (1993);
  • European Year of Persons with Disabilities (2003);
  • European Year of Education Through Sport (2004);
  • African Decade of Disabled Persons (2000-2009);
  • Ongoing work by the United Nations to adopt a Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Draft Article 24 'Participation in Cultural Life, Recreation, Leisure and Sport.'