Keep up the interest in Disabled Sport

Melanie Short
Marketing Manager
Sport Bay of Plenty

A report commissioned by UK Channel 4, broadcasters the 2012 Paralympic games, was recently completed by Bournemouth University in the UK. The findings showed it led to greater confidence and less anxiety in talking about disability and disabled sport. This made me wonder about the impact it had here in NZ, so I talked to a couple of people close to the Games and involved in disabled sport.

Mark Copeland, Chairman of Paralympics NZ comments “My experience in London for the Paralympic Games corresponds exactly to this study's findings. In NZ, although the level of TV coverage was disappointing, nevertheless there has definitely been a greater public interest in Paralympic sport since London. So many people I have spoken to – here in the Bay and all over NZ – have asked me about the Paralympic Games and the London experience, and expressed their keen interest in keeping up with Paralympic sport.”

Sophie Jackson from Parafed BOP also visited the UK recently and agreed that the perceptions and attitudes had shifted.   Sophie comments “I think in New Zealand there is still a long way to go especially with the older generations but I think the younger generations are definitely looking at disability differently.” Sophie, along with Matthew Lack from Opotiki (Wheelchair Racing – ranked 12th in the World) have been visiting schools and giving the students a chance to enjoy playing some of the sports ….favourites include Wheelchair Basketball, Goalball and Wheelchair Rugby. “We have been using these sports to give children an appreciation for disability and disability sport.”  

Dr. Dan Jackson, coordinator of the research found that before the Paralympics there were a lot of barriers – people didn't know how to talk about it. The research found, post Paralympics that “The Paralympics had a noticeable impact on the way disability was talked about; there was greater confidence and less anxiety in talking about disability sport.”

At Sport Bay of Plenty, it's part of our daily conversation – is it accessible? Not just ‘is there a wheelchair ramp' but all aspects of accessibility. We work closely with the Halberg Disability Sports Foundation and Parafed BOP. Cherryl Thompson from the Halberg Disability Sports Foundation AllSports has been working alongside the Play in the Bay Recreation Advisors “Through Play in the Bay, we have had many more clubs willing to be open to including people with a disability and I have had more interesting questions about how Disability Sport works. I believe we are starting to get away from the polite “isn't that nice” comments to recognising participants of disabled sport as athletes.”

Working collaboratively we will continue to promote and support clubs and organisations to ensure the events and activities around the Bay of Plenty be accessible to our entire community.  The full report can be found at:


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