“Inclusion” Should Not Just be a Theoretical Concept, says Wilfried Lemke

IPC Press Release Dec 29, 2011: Theoretical Concept, For the last issue of the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) magazine, The Paralympian, Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace wrote this article on his vision for sport for persons with a disability.

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There are many ways of bringing people closer together, such as music or culture. Sport too has this unique capacity to transcend barriers. It is a wonderful equalizer and can certainly place everyone on a level playing field. Exclusion, in our societies, is not inevitable.

We have tools at our disposal and sport is one of them. Sport can change what communities think and feel about persons with a disability and what persons with a disability think and feel about themselves. I saw this happening first-hand in Beijing where before the Games, a large part of the estimated 19 million people with a disability living in China were being excluded from society.

The Paralympic Games opened the doors for them and their families. Sport opens doors not only to the athletes but to a whole host of other people around them. In that sense, the Beijing Games were a tremendous success for the Paralympic Movement. Access to sport, physical activity and play is a fundamental human right for everyone.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is a very important actor not only in the field of competitive sport, but also in the promotion and support of rights for persons with a disability. This is the crossroads where the United Nations and IPC stand firmly united.

We need to fully understand that inclusion is not just a theoretical concept. It is what changes the daily lives of millions of vulnerable persons around the world. That is why more needs to be done worldwide to turn this into a reality for everyone. For this to happen, a key aspect is to get more media coverage for the athletes practicing para-sport.

Only by showcasing their talents and educating the public about what the athletes can achieve will people realize that disability is not an obstacle and that it can be overcome, through perseverance, solidarity and respect. Only then will people realize that there is not a person with a disability and a person without a disability. We are all one.

By Wilfried Lemke, Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace

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