Inclusion in sports in europe

Por: Claire Boursier e Nina Kahrs.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Within the scope of THENAPA objectives, and according to the European Sport for All declaration and the United Nations’ standard rules for the disabled, inclusion in sport of persons with special needs had to be assessed in all European countries in order to develop and increase access to sport practice. The areas concerned include school sport; sport practiced in leisure and recreational settings as well as on a competitive level, for persons with special needs from childhood to adulthood.


Three questionnaires and an observation tool were submitted to the THENAPA national representatives from 23 European countries. The aim of these investigations was to collect quantitative and qualitative data on integration of disabled athletes in sport.


The results of these researches show that the participation of persons with special needs is not very substantial. Nevertheless, there are many initiatives showing that the situation is improving. The low number of disabled persons practising sport activities might be due to a variety of reasons, such as the numerous barriers (physical, social), lack of information on sport practices for the disabled, weak co-operation between structures, lack of  financial support, a shortage of APA professionals, and a need of formation in APA.

In many countries, a legislative framework provides recommendations concerning participation of disabled persons in sport settings. Numerous actions in favor of integration exist in sport settings, but it must be noticed that the most deeply handicapped persons remain often excluded from these practices. The question of “acceptable” handicaps in regular settings is posed, even if in most European countries since a few decades social representations of disabilities have been considerably modified. Reducing cultural barriers and the negative representations of the persons with a disability would considerably improve integration/inclusion of this group of people into the society.

Discussion / Conclusions

The analysis of all data allowed THENAPA representatives to give recommendations to the European Commission aiming at improving in all European countries inclusion of disabled persons in sport settings. These recommendations concern education in APA, financial support and inclusion modalities. Different materials were elaborated to disseminate the results throughout Europe and even worldwide, such as books and CD-ROMs aiming at improving information and formation in APA.


[1]. Thenapa (2002) CD-ROM: Examples of good practice in Adapted Physical Activity

[2]. Thenapa (2003) CD-ROM: Adapt

[3]. Boursier C. & Kahrs N. (2003). Inclusion and integration through Adapted Physical Activity, 75-112.K.U.Leuven



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