Special Needs

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The Expanding Market of Events Designed for Athletes with Physical Challenges Proves Room to Grow and Need for Specialization

30 Nov, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

As events such as the Paralympics and the National Veterans Wheelchair Games have demonstrated, there’s a strong market for events designed for athletes with physical challenges. And as another event coming into the marketplace is proving, even more events are needed – and they need to be increasingly specialized.

An International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) Women’s World Games is set to be held for the first time in 2018, it was announced. According to an article in Inside The Games, the IWAS revealed its plans to stage a version of its games for women following a recent meeting of its Executive Board in Pisa in Italy.

The governing body has launched a call for nations to submit a bid for the event, where competition will be held in the Under-23 and Open categories. A host city is set to be revealed to the membership of the IWAS “in the coming months.”

Within the United States, the member organization for IWAS is Adaptive Sports USA. (A full list of other nations participating in IWAS can be found here.)

So what does this mean to host cities interested in being the U.S. bid city for this new event? Increased recognition on the world stage, of course, but also a chance to demonstrate that city’s accessibility, which can lead to hosting similar events. Even more, it can lead to showing how wheelchair- and disability-friendly an area is – and that can lead to more individuals with disabilities living in or working in the area.

The International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation has worked to increase its visibility over the past year, launching an official Facebook page in the wake of the announcement of its 2015 Games in Sochi. And in fact, the diversification of its age groups (U18, U23, Open and Masters categories for IWAS events in 2017 and beyond) is proof of the larger pool of athletes with special needs.

Sports event planners can work to help recruit new participants to their events by using targeted marketing, as well as by ensuring their events are clearly shown to be accessible. They can also work with venues and volunteers to guarantee athletes are able to get the services they need.

Event owners for the IWAS Women’s Games confirmed that one of the goals of the organization was to promote opportunities for women athletes with disabilities.

"We feel the first edition of the IWAS Women's World Games will aid significantly in the development of sport for women with physical impairments around the world and attract new women and girls into both recreational and competitive sport, said IWAS chief executive Charmaine Hooper.

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