Using Sports To Promote Inclusion and Equality for People With Disabilities

Posted by Ann Stock
July 18, 2013
Turkish Athletes Participate in a Wheelchair Basketball Game

Addressing the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities has emerged as a significant human rights and foreign policy issue in the 21st century.  There are 1 billion people with disabilities around the world, and 80 percent of them live in developing countries. Sports are an avenue through which persons with disabilities can be treated equally -- building self-esteem and confidence that enhances participation in everyday life.

Eight wheelchair basketball athletes and four coaches from Turkey were able to engage firsthand in the disability sports culture in the United States, inspiring greater understanding of inclusion rights in sports.

This wheelchair basketball exchange taught the Turkish athletes and coaches about equality for persons with disabilities in the United States, as well as the importance of teamwork and leadership skills. The program took the athletes and coaches to Washington and Illinois to play wheelchair basketball with their American counterparts, to work with experts in the field of disability sports, and to recognize the ties between academics and athletics.

They also celebrated America's birthday at the State Department's Independence Day celebration in the Benjamin Franklin Room. Ambassador Capricia Marshall -- Chief of Protocol -- introduced the Turkish athletes and coaches during her opening remarks at the event, which was followed by a warm welcome by all in attendance. The group was very moved by this gesture, which even brought a few of them to tears. With the breathtaking view of the Washington, D.C. fireworks display and the hospitality shown during the celebration, it is no surprise that the athletes and coaches found this to be one of the most meaningful portions of their trip.

This Sports Visitor program supports the U.S. Department of State's exchange programs that advocate for governments around the world to adopt policies and practices that respect diversity regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability; and recognize that persons with disabilities have the same rights as non-disabled persons, and must be provided access, opportunity, inclusion, and full participation on an equal basis with others.

Sports can serve as a powerful tool to positively influence the physical and psychological health of people with disabilities. It is through inclusive sport opportunities, such as those demonstrated in this exchange, that persons with disabilities acquire vital leadership skills, develop independence, and become empowered to act as agents of change.

About the Author: Ann Stock is Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Comments

Comments

Ashim C.
|
India
July 20, 2013
Sports is indeed a powerful tool of inclusion along with music and food culture. But electronic media is not doing as much for promotion of sports among youth and other age group as it can. Sports channels are overly event or event promotion and celebrity promotion oriented. And in developing countries sports channels are sold at higher prices than news, knowledge and entertainment channels. This needs to change. Sports channels should focus on sports training devoting at least 40% of channel time to it. The leading sport nations have hundreds of celebrity sports personalities and skilled coaches in every discipline who can be sponsored to coach through TV and videos with language dubbed to suit local requirements. One's sense is that in absence of sports training programmes and constant beaming of events of high calibre athletes, love for sports does not convert into desire to take to sports because viewers get the message what they see is so very class apart and look so remotely achievable that most people would not take to sports whereas the truth is average young person can come respectably close to the highest standards in most disciplines under expert guidance. Sports for good health and good attitude should be the motto rather than sports as a tool of mere national pride and technology behind excellence in sports should be guarded under veil of secrecy. One has never heard Secretary of Youth, who probably also looks after sports promotion also, travelling around USA or foreign countries with a retinue of sports experts and celebrities from sports with media barons owning sports channels and signing agreements for promoting sports culture. Is this difficult or geopolitically inappropriate in any manner?

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