Accessibility in Sports
Posted on March 12, 2019 by Daphne Seah
In the past, it was uncommon to hear about people with disabilities to participate in sports. People have always questioned their capability and at times have rejected the idea of playing sports with them. This misconception has resulted in children with disability being excluded from games at schools. Even when they have grown up, it also discourages them from trying out sports for fear that they might be looked down upon.
However, there are many top athletes such as Yip Pin Xiu and Laurentia Tan who have achieved excellence and won medals for Singapore despite their disability.
The Benefits of Sports
Participating in sports provides opportunities for them to forge new friendships, develop a sense of self-identity and foster a purpose for life. Especially for children with disability, it is not always easy for them to interact with their peers in school since they are viewed as ‘different’. Sports could be a healthy way for them to release their frustrations, build teamwork, gain self confidence and gives them a sense of achievement.
For children with cerebral palsy, regular physical activity can help enhance functional abilities. Physical activity increases muscle strength, flexibility, and joint structure.
Accessibility of Sports for People with Disability in Singapore
Compared to other countries such as Canada where a single disability law at national level does not exist, making sports accessible to people with disability is extremely difficult. The Singapore government supports inclusiveness by implementing more programs, events and policies to make sports accessible to people with special needs.
Disability Sports Master Plan
The Disability Sports Master Plan aims to create more inclusive sports facilities and programs, equip coaches with the skills to help people with disabilities and build public awareness of disability sports.
There are not many competitions for students with disability in Singapore to compete at school level. Play Inclusive is Singapore’s largest unified sports competition with its purpose being to promote sports at special education schools and disability centres.
The event was organised by Special Olympics Singapore and SportCares with the support of Ministry of Education (MOE). It was a huge success as students from both mainstream and special education schools came together to compete in different sports. This is a big step towards bridging the gap between students with and without disability. It is a great way for them to learn from each other’s differences.
With the games in Play Inclusive being modified, it allows for a fair playing field for all. With events like this, the hope is that students will feel more comfortable interacting with their peers with special needs and include them when they play sports in school.
This program was launched by President Halimah Yacob and the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu. Temasek Foundation Cares has committed $615,000 over the next three years to support the programme. Play-ability runs programmes for persons in disabilities in sports like badminton, basketball, boccia, sitting volleyball, aqua activities, table tennis and futsal. Play-ability provides more opportunities for social interaction and relationship building within the community.
Success Stories from Singapore’s Paralympic Athletes
Still in doubt as to why your child with disability should participate in sports? These are two athletes that turned their disability into strengths and made a name for themselves in the global sporting scene.
Yip Pin Xiu is Singapore’s para-swimmer. She is one of the most successful athletes among those with and without disability. She is Singapore’s first Paralympic gold medalist. She has muscular dystrophy – a disease that weakens the muscles over time. Swimming gave Pin Xiu a purpose to life, helped her become more confident and outgoing. At first she felt that because she was “different” from the other kids, she was missing out on a lot of activities. Swimming helped her to embrace her disability and in the pool, she is just as good an athlete as those who are able-bodied.
Laurentia Tan is para-equestrian rider. She has cerebral palsy, but she defied all odds. She won the bronze medal in the Paralympics Grade IA Individual Championship. Horse riding benefited Laurentia physically as it developed her muscle strength and improved her coordination and posture. It has taught Laurentia the value of communication, trust and teamwork.
You can read more about Laurentia’s inspiring story in our featured article about her.
Courses available for People with Disability to Learn Sports
All in all, sports has physiological as well as psychological benefits for children with disabilities. Here are some courses available in Singapore catering to those with special needs