What is Inclusion in Sport and Physical Activity for People with Disability by Peter Downs - HTML preview

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This e-book has been written and produced by Peter Downs and Ken Black for The Inclusion Club.

We would like to thank the contributors to this e-book, Martin Mansell, Eli Wolff, Steffi de Jong and Hamish Macdonald. Their contribution not only helps the production of this e-book but also contributes significantly to the ongoing success of The Inclusion Club.

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© The Inclusion Club 2012


W h a t Is

I n c l u s ion?

In this book we are going to explore the concept of ‘inclusion’

related to the provision of opportunities in sport and physical activity for people with disability.

Over the years the term ‘inclusion’ has been used across governments world wide to describe practices that ‘include’, or at least attempt to include, all people regardless of ability, race, culture, age, gender and a variety of other characteristics that are often regarded as being ‘disadvantaged’ when it comes to gaining access to regular services, including sport.

Taken in isolation the term itself is simple enough to understand.

Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge in 2012, describes it from a disability rights perspective:

Inclusion is a term used by people with disabilities and other

disability rights advocates for the idea that all people should freely, openly and without pity accommodate any person with a

disability without restrictions or limitations of any kind.


Inclusion has certainly been used in relation to sport for some time and has superseded terms such as mainstreaming and integration in recent years. We are not going to define the word inclusion here or get stuck on semantics.

It’s only when you start to discuss and probe a bit deeper into how inclusion works that you discover it can be quite complex. It becomes complex because it involves things like attitudes, technical skills, ideas of equal opportunity and human rights.

In What is Inclusion? we are simply going to explore what inclusion in sport means in a practical way by asking four very experienced and knowledgeable people. We are sure they may not like being called ‘world experts’ but, between us, they are!

This book is divided into four chapters. Each chapter is a transcript of an interview conducted with each of our four experts. There is a short biography of each expert at the start of their chapter, so you’ll know a little about their background and experience.

The chapters are direct transcripts of the interviews with a few grammatical improvements here and there. We have not changed the content or tried to make these perfect English.


Our hope is that these interviews stimulate your thoughts and help your understanding of inclusion in sport and physical activity for people with disability. We’d like to say a big thanks to our contributors to this book - Martin, Eli, Steffi and Hamish.

Please continue to make a dent in the world.

This is an Inclusion Club production. If you are not a member of The Inclusion Club you can join for free by simply going to our website at http://theinclusionclub.com. The Inclusion Club is all about sharing best practice in sport, physical activity and disability. We’d love to have you on board. Enjoy.

Peter Downs and Ken Black

Directors and Founders of The Inclusion Club 5




Martin Mansell


Martin Mansell has been involved in disability sport since 1975. First as a competitor with 2 Paralympic Games, two World, two European championships and 15

other international competitions (last games 1998 Seoul, 1 gold 2 sliver 1 bronze, swimming) and later as a coach.

In 1990, as a result of the sports minister's report Building on Ability which was an outcome from the 1988

Seoul Paralympic Games, he was appointed as one of the first professional Sports Development Officers for People with Disabilities within a Local Education Authority in England.

In 1989 has was elected Chairperson of the British Paralympic Association Athletes’ Committee and later as Chairperson of the International Paralympic Committee Athletes’ Commission and was a Director of the British Paralympic Association till January 2005 when he stood down. He has been working with Paralympics GB on their work on their Schools Education program called Ability v Ability. He also works for a number of organizations and in 1998 set up MJM Associates as advisers on disability sport. He works with organizations such as the Youth Sport Trust, Paralympics GB, English Federation of Disability Sports and NASUWT as a 7

consultant to name just a few. In addition to this he has been involved in a number of other projects such as Floatsation (www.floatsation.com) that is now one of his companies as well as working in a self-employed capacity.



In a broad sense what do you understand by inclusion?


I think in a very broad sense Peter, we are looking at making sure that people with disabilities have equal opportunity to take part in sport, physical activity and physical education – or whatever environment people chose to do it in. I think that historically we tend to think of inclusion as sport that is done by the disabled alongside the non-disabled people, but that in reality it’s about creating the opportunity to do whatever people choose and where they feel the most comfortable participating – and whatever level they choose.


Does that include then disability specific type activities?


I think it would, yes. We can look at disability sport in two ways. We can look at it as a sport that is played only by disabled people or we can look at disability sport as just a form of sport that is played by disabled and non-9

disabled. But I think that historically we have this issue about non-disabled people looking at disability sport as only sports for disabled people and therefore it excludes them. So you’ve almost got a concept of reverse exclusion in a way.

I think the time is now that we can allow those individuals, whoever they are, to take up sports such as boccia, goalball, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, sitting volleyball – it doesn’t matter. The real issue is what the competition structure allows. So as an example of that I would advocate that hypothetically, to compete in the Paralympic Games or a Disabled World Championships you have to have a disability in the same way as if you want to compete in the under 15’s championships and you are 16, therefore you are not eligible.


What about have parallel activities for example, in PE

lessons having separate sessions for children with disabilities. Is that still inclusion?



I think some people would see it as not being inclusion.

They might see it as not being with their other peers therefore it is not inclusive. But I think inclusion is more about how you plan and structure the lesson and I think if you want to segregate – for want of a better word –

children with disabilities in a PE lesson to facilitate skill development then I think that’s fine – whether they are disabled or non-disabled kids.

The real issue is whether you bring them back together socially within that lesson so they have the opportunity to exchange and interact with their peers. So yes, if a kid with a particular disability or a kid with a coordination or obesity issue is struggling then why not take that kid aside and spend some time with them on an individual basis as you would in a coaching environment.


What would you say then to people who would say that it is separation and the best choice for people with disability is to be with people who do not have a disability.



Maybe we have become a society then, that says ‘is inclusion for everyone, not just for some disabled people’ and therefore we’ve either always been inclusive or we have never really been inclusive because working with non-disabled people we segregate them out as well by their height, their sex, their age and, in some cases, their skills – so we segregate them out to try to get the best out of them – that’s how I would look at it.


So does it come down to what is the best choice for an individual?


I think it does come down to that. I’ve always had a concept in my mind that inclusion – if there is such a thing – is about facilitating educated choice. Now, some people will say ‘what is educated choice’ and I’d say its about making sure that individuals are able to experience the options available. If we are professionals looking at it, our role to be inclusive is to facilitate what that 12

individual wants based on their educated choice and experience.


Being ‘educated’ for some people might mean being able to adapt and modify activities so that you can include people with disabilities. How far do you think we can go in terms of adapting and modifying activities?

Sometimes there’s a fine line between adapting and modifying and offering the best choice for people. So how far can we go in adapting and modifying?


I think we need to go as far as we possibly can to modify and adapt an activity as long as it still represents the original activity itself. What we don’t want to do is start modifying an activity that becomes so far removed from the original game or concept that it no longer has any relationship to that activity. You don’t want to modify a football game by bringing in a rugby ball and changing the rules so that you run with the ball instead of kick it.

You have to ask the question ‘why does the individual want to play football?’ Probably because they are 13

stimulated by the media, they are influenced by the superstars of the world. We’ve all got role models in our lives. We take up sport because we want to be like our role models. If we change that sport to something that no longer represents it, then you lose the motivation to take up the activity. It’s no longer got a relationship to what I’m seeing on the television.


When it gets to the point where it affects the integrity of the activity for the whole group, that’s where it actually breaks down, isn’t it?


It does. I think you’ve hit on two very important points there. One is that the integrity of the activity itself is important and also the integrity of the whole group as a team sport. I think if it’s an individual sport, like athletics or swimming, it can be a little easier. And it makes adapting a little more comfortable. I think with team sports there are some larger challenges.



Martin, I want to ask you about medical and social models. Do you think a conversation around medical and social models is still relevant in terms of inclusion?


No. In a word. We still hang our hats on making the differential between a medical and social model. You’ve got the stuff that Ken Black and Pamela Stephenson have done around the Inclusion Spectrum and the original Winnick model – so we have those models of inclusion which are good. I think these models are relevant in a social application of disability and sociology.

But I think when it comes to physical activity I think we need to take the best of both worlds and look at what I would call a ‘functional’ model, rather than a social or medical model. I’ve done some work over the last couple of years in trying to draft up a functional/sports model with a couple of colleagues in the United States. We have not yet finished and it seems like a long slog to get there.

This will be a combination of the social models philosophy and the medical models stance and brings them together for a functional outcome.



Yes, its interesting whether a social/medical mindset is significant these days or whether it is more advantageous to talk about a functional model in the way that you explain. Do you think its just more of a progressive way to say the same things?


I think so. You know, I’ve talked to my coach over many years about how he perceived me when he coached me.

His approach was always that he didn’t know anything about disability and he didn’t know anything about the social and medical model. All he knew about was swimming coaching. And what he advocated was that he looked only at what I could do as opposed to what I couldn’t do. And he worked with me as an individual on that basis.

The analysis of that is, that this is him working only on a functional basis with me or any other swimmer that was in the pool.



Did you ever come across other coaches though that thought ‘I couldn’t coach Martin because he has a disability’?


In the early days, yes. I think the issue though there, is that someone like myself and other Paralympic athletes who get to a certain stage of development and semi elitism – they are dead easy to work with because all the hard work has already been done. It’s the ones at the base level that are starting out. If you look at some of the top athletes in the world I think what we need to do is draw an analogy between who they were when they were 6 or 7 years old to who they became.

We all look at some of the top disabled athletes and think they should be dead easy to coach, but if you had seen them when they were only 6 years old then would your response be “I don’t know anything about disabilities so I can’t coach them!”



What’s a good response to that? We’ve all heard that kind of thing over the years but how do you respond to the question – “I need to know about the disability first?” Martin

I am not quite sure what the academic response would be. I think the response might be ‘why can’t you just work with us initially and we’ll work with you”. So that those that are in the ‘know’ will work with individuals who are a little bit hesitant. You might say ‘let’s work for the next few weeks and then we can review it’. And if the person still feels that they can’t deal with it, then we will look at the reasons why.

If we are to remove the barriers, then it is about almost counsel the coaches that do that. And I think there would be some coaches out there that would be very open to that kind of support and counseling. I don’t want that to sound like ‘counseling’ in a patronizing way but it’s about supporting them and giving them the benefit of the knowledge that we have. It’s about mentoring them through it. I think you’d find that 75% of coaches have got the skills but they just don’t know it.



That’s great Martin. One final thing I would like to ask you about is that there seems to be a trend, not sure if it’s a world wide trend but certainly is here in Australia, that we are using the word ‘inclusion’ in a much more generic way. We apply if to all of us working across areas in disability, Indigenous or culturally and linguistically diverse populations. But there comes a time when we need specific advice and experience in targeted areas such as disability. We can’t all be giving all advice about inclusion all of the time!


No, we cannot expect everyone to be inclusive all of the time. You know Peter, I’ve worked in this field for a long time – I won’t go into how long that is – but, I don’t think we can expect everyone to be totally inclusive because we haven't all got the knowledge necessary. I think it’s about letting people say “I have a problem with this individual – how do I resolve it and where do I go to resolve it?’


So it is about making sure that those coaches and teachers know where the avenues are, as to where they can find information if and when they need it. So that if I was working with a group of kids with severe obesity then I am not sure where I would start. But what I would do is look for the organizations that know about obesity and talk to them about health related obesity.

I can give you a scenario. I tend to use this when I’m talking to coaches – is that there was a famous runner in the UK - a 400 meter runner – he broke down in the Barcelona 400 meter final and his dad walked onto the track and carried him off. He was originally coached in a small athletics club in Corby in the UK and when he was recognized as having good talent he moved to Birchfield Harriers, which is a much bigger and more successful club in the Birmingham area.

But he had an Achilles tendon problem and when he transferred to Birchfield Harriers – if the coach at Birchfield Harrioers had coached him in the same way that he coached his other 400 meter runners then he would have aggravated that Achilles tendon much earlier and probably would not have got to Barcelona.


Now the coach had no experience of this runner and his Achilles tendon problem previously, but he went and looked up and researched about Achilles tendon injuries

– he researched what he needed to know so that he could apply that to his coaching knowledge and coach in a different way.

If you relate that to disability and if you have a problem and an individual is struggling, then why preach about vision impairment when the coach may never have someone with a vision impairment come through the door – and if they do what level of vision impairment is it going to be?


I guess it’s about adapting to individual requirements?


Yes, and how is that any different to anyone else? Maybe that’s inclusion!



So what about the future Martin? Where do you think inclusion is going?


I think that in the future the warning is that we become complacent. That we think we’ve got it right. A warning sign is also that we are bringing new people into the area with no historical background and knowledge of what’s gone on before. I am not saying that we need to go back and revisit the past, but sometimes we need to be aware of the past. If we are not aware of the past we can end up making mistakes and go backwards if we are not careful.


Nice. I think that would be a good place to conclude the interview. Thanks very much Martin, is there anything you’d like to add?


Maybe just a couple of things. There is a tendency to work with those with more ability – there’s less work happening with more severe disabilities. We need to be careful of that. Phil Craven, President of the International 22

Paralympic Committee - he’s been on the record as saying ‘inclusion as a word shouldn’t exist because the very fact that we’re having to be inclusive means that we are excluded in the first place’. It’s disabled peoples’ god given right to be there in the first place so why should we have the word ‘inclusion’?


Very good. It reminds me very much of the words of Elizabeth Hastings (Disability Discrimination Commission) 15 years ago at the launch of the Willing and Able program here. Her words were almost identical.


Yes, I don’t disagree with Phil and he has also gone on record recently where he has said he doesn’t like the word ‘disability’ because the word disables us in the first place.


What do you think about that?



Well, my wife’s a social worker and she says that’s a great philosophy but what are you going to replace it with? It’s great to think that but what are you going to replace it with in society? We need something to be functional for service providers.


Yes, there’s a reality around that.

Thanks again Martin, I really appreciate your time and input.




Eli Wolff

Eli Wolff is the Director of the Sport and Development Project at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Eli sees sport as a social development tool, not simply a form of entertainment. His work originally focused on disability, as he researched and advocated for the inclusion of disabled athletes in collegiate, professional, and Olympic sports. He helped to draft the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2003, and is still recognized as a leader in this field today.

Yet Eli has also become interested in larger questions of sport and social change. At Brown, he co-directs the Sport and Society Fellowship, which enables student-athletes to explore the intersection of sport and human rights. He also directs the Sport and Development Project, which includes a broader group of stakeholders in programs and initiatives focusing on sport and social change.



Hi Eli, great to meet up with you again and thanks for agreeing to the interview. What do you understand by the word ‘inclusion’ in a disability and sport context?


I tend to think of inclusion pretty holistically.

Particularly how a person is valued and respected and involved in a particular experience. So a person with a disability can reach their potential - whether it’s in a disability specific setting or an integrated able bodied mainstream setting. One thing that I see a lot of, is that people with disabilities can take part in multiple settings along a spectrum or continuum of opportunity. So it is important that we don’t box a person with a disability into any particular situation. But we should try to maximize their potential through being open minded and creative and really trying to value that person as a human being.

So a lot of it goes back to the human rights framework which I tie into this a lot. For me inclusion is about a holistic approach and how you value the whole person.


Sports can sometimes be exclusive - so how do you create a paradigm shift so that it can be more inclusive?


You mentioned a couple of things there that I’d like to pick up on. The first is the tie in with human rights. And the other is the exclusive nature of sport. So from a human rights perspective, what is the dilemma between inclusion as opportunity and choice, and sport that naturally, and unnaturally, excludes people?


That’s a great question. I think that it’s important from a human level - a human rights perspective is just realizing that a person with a disability has the right to be able to use their body and be athletic. To be able to reach their potential and to see that sport and physical activity or recreation is a dimension of our lives, that people with disabilities have a right to be able to access in the same way as everybody. People should have the chance to ‘try out’ and be on the team. But with sports sometimes you may not make the team or reach the standard of excellence that is needed. But from a human rights perspective you have to understand that you may not 27

have the same equal opportunity that those without disabilities would have. So if people without disabilities are sometimes being cut from a team for whatever reason, you’d like to expect that the same criteria applies to people with disabilities.

But it’s more the idea from a human rights perspective that sport is a sphere of life that people with disabilities can partake in and go through all the experiences and emotions that go with the domain of sport. These things are just as applicable to people with disabilities. The one thing that comes from an exclusion standpoint with regard to sport and disability is that often the average sports fan regards sport and disability as a kind of oxymoron.

People with disability are often seen as being on the sideline or simply not on the playing field. So I think that it’s important that we have a paradigm shift to be able to realize, that from an inclusive standpoint, the way that we actually see a person with a disability as being part of the sports culture, the more we can create awareness and the more that the average sports fan begins to see a person with a disability involved in sports 28

not just as an outlier or a token - but this is just part of the sports fabric.

This should be anywhere in the world and at any level of sport, competitive or not. The key is that we begin to just see disability in a different way within sports. This is contrary to some of the more archaic views of what disability means that is reflected in some of the language that is used such as ‘that gimpy athlete’ or ‘that crippled athlete’. The language that is used and the way that people with disabilities are sometimes portrayed, means there is still a lot of stigma there.

This is why it is fascinating from an academic and real perspective. How do we adjust these problems? How do we work toward creating a more inclusive society? I think it’s getting better but we have to keep working at it by being diligent and vocal.


I’ll come to the stigma issue in a second but going back to the human rights question. There is a gray area between what is a ‘sport choice’ and a ‘human rights choice’. It’s that difference to when people make a 29

decision on choice based on the rules of sport as opposed to a decision based on human rights. Have you seen examples of problems arising from a ‘sport choice’ to a

‘human rights’ choice?


That’s a really good question and I think that often it is on a case by case basis. You can sometimes see the situation whereby it’s unclear if athletes’ rights have been violated and he has been discriminated against, or whether or not he simply didn’t make the team. So its is often taken on a case by case basis and you have to look at the situation. There are many cases where an athlete has not necessarily