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Disability Sports: Information on Sport for the Disabled


News and information pertaining to disability sports including paralympics and disabilities sporting events for disabled.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Adaptive Sports

Adaptive sports also known as disability sports or parasports, are sports played by persons with a disability, including physical and intellectual disabilities. As many disabled sports are based on existing able bodied sports, modified to meet the needs of persons with a disability, they are sometimes referred to as adapted sports. Organized sport for athletes with a disability is generally divided into three broad disability groups: the deaf, people with physical disabilities, and people with intellectual disabilities. Each group has a distinct history, organization, competition program, and approach to sport.

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While sport has value in everyone's life, it is even more important in the life of a person with a disability. This is because of the rehabilitative influence sport can have not only on the physical body but also on rehabilitating people with a disability into society. Furthermore, sport teaches independence. Nowadays, people with a disability participate in high performance as well as in competitive and recreational sport.

The number of people with disabilities involved in sport and physical recreation is steadily increasing around the world with organized sports for athletes with disabilities divided into three main disability groups, sports for the deaf, sports for persons with physical disabilities, and sports for persons with intellectual disabilities.

From the late 1980s, organizations began to include athletes with disabilities in sporting events such as the Olympic Games and Commonwealth Games. However, many sports are practiced by persons with a disability outside the formal sports movements, for example: Wheelchair basketball, Wheelchair dancing, Weightlifting, Swimming, and many other sporting activities you can join if you are mentally or physical disabled.

Major disability sporting events include:

Disabled Veterans - The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Adaptive Sports programs are dedicated to motivating, encouraging and sustaining participation and competition for disabled Veterans and members of the Armed Forces through partnerships with VA hospitals and local adaptive sports programs across the country. Each year, the Department hosts six national sporting events for eligible disabled Veterans. VA also provides grant funding through the United States Olympic Committee to organizations nationwide to increase the quantity and quality of Paralympic and adaptive sport opportunities for Veterans and disabled members of the Armed Forces.

Studies show that adaptive sports provide numerous benefits including:

  • Less stress
  • More independence
  • Higher achievement in education and employment
  • Reduced dependency on pain and depression medication
  • Fewer secondary medical conditions (i.e., diabetes, hypertension)

For more information or to find an adaptive sports club near you, visit or follow VA Adaptive Sports on Twitter at @VAAdaptiveSport.

Deaflympics - The Summer and Winter Deaflympics are among the world's fastest growing sports events.

Special Olympics - The global Special Olympics movement got its start on 20 July 1968, when the First International Special Olympics Games were held at Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, USA. But the concept of Special Olympics was born much earlier, when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for people with intellectual disabilities at her home in 1962.

Disability Commonwealth Games - For the first time in the Games history a number of Para-Sports were included in a fully inclusive Sports Program in Manchester 2002 when 20 countries sent both male and female elite athletes with a disability to compete in 10 events across 5 different Para-Sports; Athletics, Lawn Bowls, Swimming, Table Tennis and Weightlifting. "The Commonwealth has always said it wants to play a lead role in social issues," says Steadward, who is president of the International paralympic Committee. "What better way than by becoming the first major sports competition to integrate athletes with disabilities"

Paralympic Games - A multi-sport event for athletes with physical, mental and sensorial disabilities. This includes mobility disabilities, amputees, visual disabilities and those with cerebral palsy. The Paralympic Games are held every four years, following the Olympic Games, and are governed by the International Paralympic Committee.

Paralympic sports
Alpine skiing - An adaptation of alpine skiing for athletes with a disability. Governed by the International Paralympic Sports Committee.
*Basketball ID
*Cue sports
Football 5-a-Side
Football 7-a-Side
Ice sledge hockey
*Ice sledge racing
*Nine-pin bowling
Nordic Skiing
Table tennis
*Ten-pin bowling
Wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair curling
*Wheelchair dance sport
Wheelchair fencing
Wheelchair rugby
Wheelchair tennis
Special Olympics
Alpine skiing
Cross-country skiing
Figure skating
Floor hockey
Roller skating
Short track speed skating
Table tennis
Team handball
Deaf sports
Alpine skiing
Beach volleyball
Cross-country skiing
Ice hockey
Table tennis
Tae kwon do
Water polo
Other Disability Sports
Blind cricket
Blind golf
Electric wheelchair football
Electric wheelchair hockey
Disability Shooting and Hunting
Wheelchair baseball
Wheelchair hockey
Wheelchair rugby
Wheelchair skateboarding
Extremity Games
Rock Climbing
Moto Cross
BMX Biking

Note: Denotes discontinued events.

Quick Facts: Negative Attitudes in Sports

Stereotypes, attitudes, assumptions and perceptions often combine to create a stigma around people with disabilities. These barriers to sports participation can cause a disabled person to see himself as less worthy. This is especially true for disabled women. According to, only about 7 percent of women with disabilities exercise regularly or participate in any type of sport.

A wide range of sports have been adapted to be played by people with various disabilities, as well as several that are unique to disabled athletes. Within each movement, different sports are practiced at different levels; for example, not all sports in the Paralympic movement are part of the Paralympic Games. In addition, many sports are practiced by persons with a disability outside the formal sports movements.

Statistics: U.K. Disability Sports

According to Active People Survey June 2014;

  • 72.1% of disabled people take part in no sport or physical activity, compared to 47.8% of non-disabled people.
  • 17.8% of disabled people take part in sport for 30 minutes once a week compared to 39.2% of non disabled people.
  • Disabled men are more likely to take part in sport than disabled women. 20.1% of disabled men men take part in 30 minutes of sport a week compared to 15.5.% of disabled women.
  • Participation among disabled people is significantly lower across all age groups compared to non-disabled people, but the difference is most notable between people aged between 20 to 25 years old.
  • People with sensory impairments (hearing and visual impairments) have the lowest level of participation. 12% of people with a visual impairment and 10% of people with a hearing impairment take part in sport for 30 minutes once a week.

Latest Disability Sports Publications

Infographic overview and basic rules of winter and summer paralympic sports categories.

Information regarding Cybathlon, a sporting competition for disabled athletes using bionic assistive technology, robotic prostheses, brain-computer interfaces and powered exoskeletons.

Information regarding Deaf Sporting organizations and events in America including USADSF and the Deaflympics.

Information regarding winter and summer outdoor activities for people with disabilities in Colorado.

Information regarding wheelchair dancing a sport that continues to grow in popularity around the world.

Mpower launches new website designed to educate and promote disability sport and recreation.

Office for Civil Rights guidance clarifying school districts existing legal obligations to provide equal access to extracurricular athletic activities to students with disabilities.

Canadian Paralympic Committee invites sport organizations and clubs to apply for 2013-14 granting round of Para-Equipment Fund and Recruitment Program Fund.

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