Disability, Sport and Research

The past couple of months I have considered the aspect of disability in my PhD thesis. Largely because the Paralympic Games featured significantly in the educational programme connected to London 2012, with the Paralympic values of inspiration, determination, courage and equality a central feature alongside the Olympic values. I am discussing this topic at the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport conference this week, exploring whether through London 2012 there was perception change that has influenced UK education based sport policy beyond 2012.

The area of disability and disability sport is not something I have considered extensively before and it has raised some interesting issues. The two points that I have pondered more broadly are:

  • the dominance of the Paralympics and International Paralympic Committee in my own research around disability sport. In March this year, the organisation continued their direction of alignment with the International Olympic Committee and building a brand around international elite disability sport. I am continuing to ponder whether this global elite sport movement productively represents disability sport?
  • beyond elite and competitive disability sport, the relationship between everyday physical activity and sport and disability communities. The Activity Alliance released a research report recently around ‘The Activity Trap: Disabled people’s fear of being active’ and the issues around physical activity in everyday lived experiences of the disability community. In my own Paralympic-centric understanding of disability, have I missed the relationship between disability and everyday sporting issues?

The above bullet points are a couple of sentences of academic chatter to highlight how my own research has challenged my own understandings of disability, and what London 2012 did for particular disability communities. I am not going to be able to answer all of this by the end of my PhD. Nevertheless, it is an area that I want to delve into further, especially, with the upcoming ‘inclusive’ sport mega events of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the 2021 Rugby League World Cup in the North of England. As ever, plenty to ponder!



    • Hi Ian, apologies only just seen this comment! Thanks for the remarks. We do indeed. I am trying to channel it all down on paper at the minute, but plenty to discuss ahead. I hope all is well with you in Coventry… I am off to Japan this weekend and v.excited! Catch you again soon, VPos


  1. Excellent points well made. It is wonderful that you recognise the complexities of disability sport, don’t get me started on Deaflympics and Special Olympics but all have key roles in the development of sport for all.
    When the Activity Alliance released their latest research i challenged my students perceptions on PIP and how it impacts on sports participation. I left my group a little more aware (I hope) but with the notion of … what can you do to address this in your own chosen field… do you ignore it or do you use your voice to make changes? All very interesting points.


    • Hey Becs, apologies I have only just seen this. Thanks so much for your points. I think at some point we need to get you started on the Deaflympics and Special Olympics, it needs to be down on paper and contributing to the debate! Agreed, the Activity Alliance report is so useful and really accessible for students etc. I wonder whether the point made in the report about everyday lived experiences will ever bridge with the elite and classification debates within the IOC and more performance disability sport? So much to discuss…. Hope all is well in Worcester 🙂 VPos


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