Leveraging Disability Sport Events
In 2013, along with Dr Laura Misener (Western University, Prof David Legg, (Mount Royal University) and my colleague Prof Gayle McPherson (UWS), I embarked on a major Canadian/UK research project focused on the role of parasport events in leveraging sustainable community participation for persons with a disability. It has been a great experience to be involved in such an ambitious project and the research team has been able to publish extensively on the topic area as well as produce wider impacts with sport federations, municipal authorities and disability persons organisations. In September 2018 we published our main output from the project, a book titled Leveraging Disability Sport Events: Impacts, Promises, and Possibilities, which addresses the role of parasport events in facilitation social change for persons with a disability, drawing on our research enquiries in both Canada and the UK.
The initial research project came to a close in 2016 but we were successful in an application for follow up funding which allows the team to explore the lived experience of persons with a disability as they access sport and recreational facilities post-event. To this end we will be undertaking go-along interviews with research participants over the course of 2018/19 and working with existing and new partners to ensure that this work informs and influences the policy environment around accessibility and sport in the years to come. This issue continues to be topical, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers facing challenges in making that city accessible for persons with a disability. Recent debates about the 2022 Winter Olympics bid process has also brought out discussion of the potential opportunity presented by hosting a mega sport event to improve accessibility and create accessible tourism opportunities. Our co-investigator Professor David Legg discussed this issue in this recent TV interview on Calgary’s prospective bid for the Winter Games and the opportunity to create a more accessible and inclusive urban environment.
What’s clear from the findings of our our recent studies, and those of others like Professor Mike Silk and his team at Bournemouth University looking at the impact of the Paralympics Games, is that the inspiration or demonstration effect of these events is by no means uncontested. In fact, without the strategic will to invest, amend policy and follow through on programmes post-event, it is unlikely that the hoped-for benefits for persons with a disability will materialise. Policy makers (in both sport and urban contexts) need to more effectively foreground the accessibility agenda when considering bidding for, and delivering a major parasport event. Only then will well meaning promises be translated into concrete actions.