[Special Edition] People of Determination and Sports

In March of 2019, the Special Olympics World Games 2019 was held in Abu Dhabi with the goal of “[empowering] People of Determination with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport” (Special Olympics). On a similar note, the Winter and Summer Paralympic Games are being hosted every four years following respective Olympic Games in order to foster social inclusion of people with physical disabilities. 

These international competitions have been key in increasing disability representation and in pushing forward the rights and equality of people of determination within various countries. Especially, the 2019 Special Olympics became the stepping stone for launching new projects and initiatives in the UAE to “[serve] the aspirations of people of determination in sports, education, health, culture and quality of life” (Special Olympics). One example of this is the formation of a “Mothers of Determination Association” that offers relevant training and support to families with children of determination. 

As partly evinced by the aforementioned competitions, sports and parasport games can play an integral role in promoting inclusion and wellbeing of people of determination. According to the United Nations, sports, in addition to its physical benefits, can challenge societal stigma associated with people of determination “by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the person”. Sports can also empower people of determination since it enables them to “realize their full potential and advocate for changes in society” (United Nations). It serves as a gateway for people of determination to build confidence in their abilities and to acquire social skills by interacting with others as part of a team. 

However, due to preexisting stereotypes associated with disability and the lack of equipment available for parasports, people of determination are often barred from participating in sports and competing as athletes. Accordingly, in an attempt to tackle such issue, the UN has declared the international rights of people with disabilities to engage in sporting/recreational activities under Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. Further efforts are needed to ensure that these rights are being protected around the world..