Acceptance of competitive sports of disabled atletes from the perspectives of disabled and non-disabled athletes and sports journalists

Por: Kemper Reinhild e Teipel Dieter.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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The competitive sport of non-disabled athletes manifests a high rate of acceptance among non-disabled representatives of the public and the media. Many successful athletes enjoy a great interest on the part of the media and a high popularity even beyond their sport discipline. This is quite different in the area of the competitive sport of the disabled. It could be ascertained that before, during and immediately after the Paralympics in Sydney 2000 the media interest on the sport of the disabled had grown to a high extent. Paralympic competitions were regularly broadcasted on free television in many countries. But this interest diminished already about two weeks after the Paralympics 2000. The present survey deals with the acceptance of the competitive sport of the disabled in society. Therefore, the attitudes of athletes with disabilities, athletes without disabilities and sports journalists towards the sport of the disabled were taken into consideration.


The method for the qualitative analysis of the acceptance of competitive sport of the disabled athletes was a specific, focussed, semi-structured interview. This specific interview was conducted with 20 non-disabled athletes, 20 disabled athletes and 10 sport journalists. The average age of the 20 non-disabled athletes was 25.6 years, that of the 20 disabled athletes was 35.0 years and that of the 10 sport journalists was 34.0 years.


The disabled athletes attested the non-disabled athletes a high degree of understanding of their situation and a  high rate of acceptance of their engagement in the specific sport discipline. Furthermore the non-disabled athletes stated that the acceptance of their competitive sport in public had increased in the recent years. They attributed this tendency to improved public relations and more detailed presentations in the print media, on the radio as well as on television. Some disabled athletes critically pointed out that the frequent start classes in the various sport disciplines and the lower rates of performance in comparison with non-disabled athletes made it difficult for sport journalists and spectators to get an adequate overview over the sport disciplines. Therefore the sport of the disabled athletes attained a by far lower public acceptance and attractiveness than the sport of the non-disabled athletes. That is why the disabled athletes wished that the public and, above all, the various media should pay even more intensive and long-lasting attention to their sport activities. They mentioned that more media presence and also awareness training on disabilities for children already at an early age would be necessary in order to increase the level of acceptance. The disabled athletes criticized that many non-disabled persons had insufficient possibilities to get in touch with disabled people, that they had an obvious lack of knowledge and awareness on body malfunctions and that even some non-disabled persons were scared at the idea of contact with disabled persons, due to insufficient education. The disabled athletes also criticized the high aspiration for beauty and achievement, but low aspiration or even the negation of illness, disease and disadvantage in society.  Besides, the non-disabled athletes pointed out that the achievements of disabled athletes were not acknowledged sufficiently. The disabled athletes referred to the insufficient financial support on the part of their sport federations and the lack of sponsoring as major obstacles for the increase of the attractiveness of their competitive sport. What is more, the disabled athletes wished a more profound information and education for the sport journalists in order to make more qualified media presentations. Even if many sport journalists evaluated the interest of their recipients as being very high, they often were not offered regular opportunities to report on the competitive sport of the disabled, due to the strict and limited time schedule. They also criticized the small significance of competitive sport of the disabled in contrast to that of the non-disabled.


The interview study manifested that sport-related and media-related causes were named to increase the acceptance of the competitive sport of the disabled athletes. The whole educational system outside and inside the sport community should contribute to the reduction of the negative evaluations and the increase of the more positive assessments of disabled persons in society. Above all, the media in general and the sport media in specific should increase the sensitivity for the disabled persons and especially for the competitive disabled athletes and heighten the number, the extent and the content of reports on the sport of the disabled athletes.



[1]. Kemper, R. (2003). Specific career aspects of non-handicapped and handicapped athletes. Unpublished  habilitation thesis, Institute of sport science, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.

[2]. Kemper, R. & Teipel, D. (2003). Self-concept and social concept of handicapped high-level athletes. Unpublished research report, Institute of sport science,  Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena.




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