Sport et Citoyenneté

The social and inclusive dimension of sport is not anymore to prove. However, too little is set up to facilitate its access to disabled people. Among the 80 million disabled people living in the EU, 50% declared they had never participated to any sport activity. This observation was the central issue at yesterday’s conference on Sport and Disabilities at the European Parliament. Politicians, Paralympic committees, sport associations, the Sport Intergroup of the European Parliament, as well as disabled athletes were gathered and well determined to answer the questions: why is it so and how can we change it? Sport and Citizenship was represented by the President of its European network “Sport and Disabilities” and founder of SPIN Sport Innovation, Matthias Gütt.

Many reasons explain the high level of physical inactivity of disabled people among which the prices of equipment (a good-quality prosthetic leg can cost up to 80 thousand euros and is not reimbursed by the state), the lack of trained coaches, the difficulty to find an adapted sport or the lack of mediatisation. The problem also lies in the lack of collaboration and coordination between the stakeholders, which makes it difficult to put policies into practice. “Sport policies for disabled people do exist but often remain empty shells. What we need is communities of practice to facilitate impact and coordinate stakeholders at all levels” argued Matthias Gütt.

The conference also gathered some pioneers in the field such as Marije Baart De La Faille, professor at the University of Applied Science of Amsterdam (HvA), leader of the SEDY project (Sport Empowers Disabled Youth). This project aims to contribute to increase physical activity of children with a disability through a better matching of the demand and the supply. As she mentioned, “although the number of disabled people having access to physical activities in the Netherlands is in constant evolution, it remains 20% below the average of the physically active population (59%) in the country”. Sport and Citizenship, partner in this project, and active contributor on the question, encourages this positive tendency but however underlines and reminds that all stakeholders, at European, national and municipal level, must come into action to reinforce this trend and spread it across Europe. Meanwhile the Think tank also organized in collaboration with the Foundation FDJ, the first event of “Les Débats du Sport Solidaire”, dedicated to share moment of reflexions on sport for people with disabilities.

Although these European and national initiatives are showing the way and stressing the need for change, a lot of effort still has to be made to facilitate and democratize sport values of solidarity, equality, respect, diversity and integrity in order to encourage participation for all.

Author :