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Sports Participation Increasing Among Individuals with Disabilities

21 Aug, 2019

By: Michael Popke
Event Owners Need to Keep Up, However

More than half of individuals with disabilities have increased their participation in sports over the past five years.

That’s according to the new “Diversity Inclusion in Sports Today survey” by TD Bank, in conjunction with Achilles International, a global organization serving 25,000 athletes with disabilities in 29 countries. 

And that’s good news for event planners, who might want to consider ways to better accommodate those athletes (and the spectators who come to watch them).

In case you’re wondering about the connection, the bank and the organization partner to sponsor the Annual Achilles Hope & Possibility Road Race by TD Bank, one of the world’s largest road races supporting individuals with disabilities. The 17th annual event was held in June in New York City’s Central Park and has grown from 500 finishers in 2002 to more than 5,800 this year.

“We have seen a remarkable increase in people with disabilities competing in road races over the years,” Genna Griffith, director of special projects for Achilles International, said in a statement announcing the survey results. “We have advocated to make road races more accessible to people with disabilities, so they have equal opportunity to compete. This is a trend that we expect will continue as access and awareness of resources continue to drive inclusion across the country.” 

The Disability Inclusion in Sports Today survey results showed a robust desire to participate more actively in sports among individuals with disabilities.

For example, four of 10 individuals with disabilities surveyed across all age groups who currently do not participate in sports would like to do so. But such challenges as lack of time, physical demand and/or injury, high costs and transportation issues are holding them back.

Moreover, 70 percent of respondents were unaware of organizations that offer relevant support.

According to the survey, the most-cited ways to accelerate sports inclusion are by offering accessible training facilities or access, increasing awareness, expanding access to sports medicine and enhancing funding. And individual sports — led by walking, swimming and cycling — are more popular among survey respondents than team sports.

Other survey highlights:

  • Nine of out 10 individuals with disabilities are more likely to do business with a company that supports their community.
  • Among those currently involved in sports, 52 percent say their participation has increased compared to five years ago. This proportion is higher among those under age 40 and declines for people over 60. 
  • 31 percent say their participation has remained the same compared to five years ago.
  • Among those who are not currently involved in sports, 82 percent who participated in the past two years and 35 percent of those who have never played sports would be interested in participating.

Now, advocates say, it's time for event owners to step up to accommodate those with disabilities who want to participate in sports. Adding special divisions and accommodations is a good start. Also essential to remember is that as the population of those with disabilities in sports increases, so will spectators with similar challenges. Parking, concessions, rest rooms and other facilities must be carefully examined for compliance.

For more details about the survey and its methodology, click here.

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