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A large segment of the world’s population has some form of disability. According to the World Health Organization, this figure is 15 percent—or about 1 million people. Disability rates are higher in the US, at about 19 percent.
Disability status also varies by age, such that, as people get older, they are more likely to have a disability. To illustrate, 11 percent of people age 24 to 44 have any sort of disability, compared to 43 percent of people age 70 to 74.
Unfortunately, people with disabilities are unlikely to participate in sport or physical activity. As a result, they are not able to gain the physical, psychological, and social benefits associated therein.
Recognizing this, a research team out of Sweden, led by Susanna Geidne, examined how sport clubs include children with disabilities. They focused on reasons for inclusion, barriers that the clubs broke down, and the outcomes for the children.
They found that coaches played a key role. When coaches were trained in coaching athletes with disabilities, and motivated to enhance inclusion, more children were involved.
The design of the sports is also important. Some sports, like basketball, can be adapted so that all people, regardless of their disability status, have the same accommodations.
Facilities also play an important role. For example, parks with synthetic turf fields are more conducive to wheelchairs than are those with dirt and grass. The former allows for inclusion of children with disabilities in sports like wheelchair baseball.
Finally, the authors observed many benefits associated with participation. The children enhanced their skills and fitness levels. They also created social bonds with others, including those with and those without a disability. These findings show the many benefits of inclusive efforts on the part of sport clubs.