Sport and Citizenship recently carried the below article about CAFE in their recent journal:

Access and inclusion in Europe

At least 12% of Europe’s population is disabled, that’s more than 80 million disabled people.

More than 50% of all disabled people in Europe have never participated in leisure or sport activities and one third has never travelled abroad or even participated in day-excursions because of inaccessible venues and services.  

Equality is a basic human right and a fundamental pillar of social justice. Social justice is about the acceptance of people as individuals and providing equal opportunities to participate fully in social life. Without good access the basic human rights of disabled people are compromised. 

Sports continue to act as a powerful catalyst for change by setting an example to the wider society and so by helping to improve access and inclusion in the daily lives of disabled people.


Creating a sense of belonging and community cohesion

Access to sports participation is critical to helping to create a healthy lifestyle for disabled people. But an individual’s health and wellbeing can also be greatly improved by attending live sports or cultural events as a spectator with all the joy that can bring.

Supporting a local team provides social and community cohesion. It is part of the very fabric of European culture with many friends, colleagues and families coming together each week in solidarity and with a common goal and with lively discussions and debates.

Indeed, CAFE has many personal testimonials of how attending sporting events can be life-changing for disabled people. It often gives them the confidence to try other new activities and may enhance their self-esteem by providing a new sense of well-being and belonging. This is largely because disabled people can feel included in society, sometimes for the first time ever.


Large sporting events provide a platform for social change

In 2012, the public was captivated by the Olympics and Paralympics. The spectators fortunate to have been there will never forget their experiences. The feeling of collective pride and passion in being in a stadium at an iconic sporting moment is not easily described. But for disabled spectators that can only happen if sporting arenas are truly accessible and inclusive.

In Bucharest, the UEFA Europa League Final saw the largest ever gathering of disabled people at a public place in the history of Romania. This ensured the visibility of disabled people alongside their peers and helped to raise awareness. In December, CAFE was invited back to Bucharest to speak at the International Day of Disabled People’s Gala. The message was clear, things are changing and the hosting of one of UEFA’s flagship events played an important role in this region.

It can be naturally concluded that the outcomes of creating accessible sporting venues and tournaments across Europe may be so far reaching as to change the way in which we view disability and hence disabled people may be truly empowered and included for the first time within their own societies. That level of cohesion and wellbeing cannot and must not be underestimated in considering the health and wellbeing of disabled people.

A version of this article is also available in French.

Published 16/05/2014