As per World Health Organisation’s (WHO) estimate, about 650 million (about 10%) of the world’s population are differently abled. Out of this, 80% live in developing countries. Disability is an aspect of an individual’s life that must be normalised, and it plays an active part in all sectors of the community.
Differently abled people face various forms of challenges throughout their life. Still, they are usually omitted from education, employment, and community life, denying them opportunities essential to their health, development, and well-being. Several nations and international organisations have taken significant initiatives to bring them to the forefront of society. Day by day, their participation in various fields is getting empowered.
Sports and Disability
Sports impart essential skills like how to communicate effectively, teamwork, and cooperation. A person with disabilities often faces different forms of barriers like physical, mental, and societal.
Through sports, persons with disabilities positively interact with persons without disabilities by forcing them to restructure their assumptions about what they can and cannot do. They attain vital social skills, develop independence and become empowered to act as an example of change.
Disability Sports in India: Then & Now
According to the 2011 census of India, out of 1.35 billion people, 26.8 million (2.21%) belonged to the group of differently abled individuals. Out of this total percentage of differently-abled people, 80% reside in rural areas. They are the one who struggles a lot to come into the field of sports, especially women. The Government of India has taken several policies and programs to tackle this issue. Thus, as an achievement, India has shown its brilliance in national and international disability sports items for a long time. Various state and non-state actors are working to bring those differently-abled people into sports activities.
India in the Paralympics
India made its first Paralympics debut in Israel in 1968. Out of the ten attendees, there were two females and eight males, but they did not make it into any medals. In 1972, India got its first gold medal in swimming at Heidelberg, West Germany. Mr. Murlikant Petkar made the world record by swimming the 50m freestyle in 37.331 seconds. In the 1984 New York Paralympics, Joginder Singh Bedi won the silver medal in men’s shot put and followed it up with a pair of bronze, and Bhimrao Kesarkar won the silver medal in javelin throw. Later in 2004, 2012, and 2016 Paralympics, India won several medals in various sports events, including gold.
Furthermore, the recent 2020 Tokyo Paralympics was India’s best-ever performance in Paralympics with 19 medals- five gold, eight silver, and six bronze. Shooter Avani Lekhara became the first Indian woman to win two medals in Tokyo Paralympics. This result provides a high level of hope and courage for the upcoming 2024 Paralympic Games.
India in the Deaflympics
India made its first Deaflympic participation in 1977 in Romania and received the first medal in 1981 Koln, Germany Deaflympics. From 1981 to 2021, Indian participants, including men and women, participated in various items. 2021 Brazil’s Deaflympics was recognised as the best performance of India by receiving 16 medals which consisted of 8 gold, one silver, and seven bronze. India scored a total of 70 medals, including 38 gold in the Deaflympics. Besides, India has participated in and received several highly acclaimed positions in other international and regional events.
Organisations and Schemes Promoting Sports for the Disabled in India
Various organisations in India identify disabled sports persons and impart basic training for differently abled people. They are working at the grassroots levels to promote and develop sporting talent. It also prepares them to participate in state, national, and international sports events.
• Paralympic Committee of India (PCI)
The Committee decides and picks athletes to represent India at the Paralympic Games and other international meets. Founded in 1992 as the Physically Handicapped Sports Federation of India, the PCI’s main aim is to promote and develop opportunities for disabled athletes and ensure their contribution to various sports activities. Additionally, the organisation also has affiliations with the particular State units of India.
• All India Sports Council of the Deaf (AISCD)
The AISCD is the national apex body that mainly works in the domain of deaf sports, which was established in 1965 and actively worked under the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports. Its main objective is to promote and develop opportunities for deaf sports persons. Moreover, the organisation conducts awareness programs nationwide to foster skills and abilities in various adaptive and integrated games. They also put effort into participating in Deaflympics. AISCD holds affiliations with the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, the International Committee of Sports for the deaf/ Deaflympics, the Asia-Pacific Deaf Sports Confederation, and the International Chess Committee of the Deaf.
• Special Olympics Bharat
It is a national sports federation registered under the Indian Trust Act 1882, affiliated with Special Olympics International. The federation aims at the development of sports persons with intellectual disabilities
• Cerebral Palsy Sports Federation
Cerebral Palsy Sports Federation of India was an apex body in India to promote sports for persons with cerebral palsy and other neurological conditions. It provides them with a platform and opportunities to showcase their sporting abilities. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has acknowledged Cerebral Palsy Sports Federation in India as a National Sports Federation (NSF).
• Scheme of Sports and Games for the Disabled
This is a central sector scheme introduced by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in 2009. The objective of this sport is to broad-basing participative sports among the disabled. The scheme includes a grants for sports coaching and purchase of consumable and non-consumable sports equipment for schools, grant for the training of coaches, and grant for holding district, state, and national level competitions.
Existing Problems in the Disability Sports
- Taking the gender perspective into account, the participation of disabled women is meagre compared to males. Furthermore, they face various intersectional problems in society. They have to work hard in order to take part in sports activities.
- Societies’ attitudes towards them have hardly changed. Even parents and other family members consider them as people who cannot achieve anything, especially in sports.
- They often lack appropriate facilities and activities to bring out their talents.
- Besides, they always have to deal with the lack of support from state governments and other private sponsors.
- There are instances where differently-abled people encounter abuse and discrimination based on race and a lack of sympathy and understanding from society.
- They also face the absence of confidence concerning appearance, communication and ability.
- Also, compared to others in the sports field, they face difficulty accessing the required information training, support and opportunities.
India has become a country that has witnessed the world’s attention in disability sports over the years. They have been under several barriers which resist them from entering the forefront of society. It includes transportation systems, and public buildings continue to be not accessible for disabled people. However, this issue has not been addressed consistently by the government.
Several international and national organisations exist to support and promote them. Therefore, authorities should review and enforce the existing laws to accommodate disabled persons. Government officials must introduce policies and programmes from the grassroots levels to empower them. Thus, it will enable us to bring those people to the forefront.
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About the Author
Apart from being a talented football player and a hodophile, Unais is also an active social worker in Kerala. He is pursuing his master’s degree from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, in International Relations and Politics. From his political science background, he has a keen interest in areas like Migration and Refugee Studies, Gender Studies and World Politics.