Making the Paralympics count

Source: This post is based on the article “Making the Paralympics count” published in The Hindu on 1st September 2021.

Relevance: Paralympics empowering disabled people

Synopsis: This is the chance to improve the conditions of the disabled pursuing sports and to refresh the way we view disability.


About 2.2% of the Indian population is classified as disabled. However, they have made India proud in recently conducted Paralympics with India finishing at 24th position bagging 19 medals.

Paralympics gives a platform for disabled people to perform and shine. It also offers everyone the chance to watch them in action. Media attention ensures that athletes with disabilities capture the public imagination.

Though they have made India proud, they face numerous challenges in society which they have to overcome on a daily basis.

Read more: Sports sector in India: Issues and challenges – Explained, Pointwise
What are the problems disabled people are facing?

Stereotypes: In India, persons with disabilities find it difficult to live a life of equal dignity. The status of Divyang — persons with divine bodies —presents them as beings with supernatural powers. However, despite all efforts, stereotypes and unfounded biases about the disabled people’s incompetence, inability to make informed choices and asexuality etc. continue.

Access to Recreational activities: Disabled people have to face multiple obstacles as most facilities do not provide a conducive environment for them, e.g. Parks, swimming pools etc.

Unfriendly sports governance Framework: Section 30 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, requires appropriate governments and sporting authorities to take measures to improve access to meaningful sporting opportunities for the disabled. These include redesigning infrastructural facilities and providing multisensory essentials and features in all sporting activities to make them more accessible.

Further, The passage of the ‘Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act’ in 2016, which was done to fulfill obligations to a UN convention, requires a 4% reservation for people with specified disabilities. But the funding has not been allocated owing to bureaucratic reasons.

Body limitations: Athletes face the challenges of overcoming bodily difficulties ranging from strength to mobility. Then there is the psychological challenge of overcoming societal biases and perceptions.

Infrastructure: In an audit conducted in 2016 by the government agencies did not find a single building that was completely accessible to differently-abled. Access audit of Indian urban buildings revealed how even a ramp, essential for differently-abled, is either missing or was added as an after-thought.

What India should do?
  1. There is a need for proper introspection of all the existing rules/laws.
  2. There is a need to reorient the strategy/ plan as per the need of disabled people.
What Indian Government has done?
  1. At the systemic level, India brought governance reforms to the Paralympic Committee of India.
  2. The Union Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs brought parity to the cash rewards structure for medal-winning Paralympians by placing them on equal footing with their able-bodied counterparts at the Olympics.
What more can we do?
  1. At the individual level: We should view athletes with disabilities in a holistic sense, while also acknowledging their additional challenges. We should strive to create more opportunities for disabled people so that they can participate in all walks of life.
  2. Sports Broadcaster: The government should take steps that enable disabled people to watch and participate in sporting activities.
  3. Media: Pictures of the Paralympics in electronic media and on social media should be accompanied by image descriptions for the visually challenged.

It is easy to admire the courage of our para-athletes from far. But, with intent, resolve and action, we can make the Paralympics count for India, not just in the medals tally but in the lives of disabled people.

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