Disability Discrimination Act and the Sporting Arena

Disabled people in the United Kingdom

Currently there are over 8 million disabled people in the United Kingdom. A disabled person is someone who has a physical or mental impairment which affects their day to day life. Accordingly many individuals such as employers and the education authorities have a full list of obligations in the legal context.

Is there any legislation which protects the rights of disabled people in the UK?

Currently in the UK the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, soon to be amended by the Equality Act 2010, protects the rights of disabled people in the United Kingdom.

The act makes it easier for disabled people to go to work, get an education and be provided with many other rights available for able bodied people.

Does the Disability Discrimination Act have an effect on the sporting arena?

The Disability Discrimination Act has the following effect on the sporting context:

  • It is unlawful for sports clubs to treat disabled people less favourably for a reason related to their disability
  • Sports clubs are required to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people such as providing extra help or making changes to the way in which they provide their services
  • Sports clubs will also have to make reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises in order to overcome physical barriers to access

What is meant by reasonable adjustments in this context?

There is no specific answer in this context as to what is meant by reasonable adjustments. Accordingly the law under the Disability Discrimination Act allows for flexibility enabling sports clubs to find different solutions for differing situations.

What factors should be taken into consideration?

The following factors should be taken into consideration?

  • The type of service provided
  • The nature of the service provider – including the size and available resources
  • The effect of the disability on the individual disabled person

Examples of reasonable adjustments could include simple things are ensuring that lockers in the changing room are at the correct height for wheelchair users or that adequate training procedures are provided to coaches to take account of disabled participants. In some cases this may even constitute an entire refurbishment of the premises to improve the facilities within the sports club but also to improve the disabled access outside the sports club.

What considerations should a sports club take into account before making reasonable adjustments?

Before making reasonable adjustments a sports club should take into account various different considerations. Examples of these are as follows:

  • Consulting with disabled users of the facilities – to consider areas of the club which may be subject to change
  • Take an audit of the current facilities – in order to decide what may need to be changed or adapted
  • Review promotional material from the club – in order to check that it is accessible to disabled people
  • Review your staff and coaching knowledge – in order to ensure that they know how most effectively to work with disabled people

Are all sports available for disabled people?

All sports are available for disabled people and in many instances have been specifically adapted to ensure that this large group of society has access to the same sports as able bodied people. For example sports such as tennis, swimming, cricket and certain track and field events have been adapted for disabled people.

In what ways have these sports been adapted?

Tennis has been adapted for wheelchair users in that the ball is allowed to bounce twice whereas in able-bodied tennis the ball is only allowed to bounce once.

Are all sports adapted in this manner?

Not all sports’ rules are adapted in this manner. However, this does not mean that they are not able to be played by disabled participants. For example the extremely popular sport of wheelchair basketball follows much the same rules as able-bodied basketball.

Are disabled participants able to use equipment in certain sports?

Other sports for example football have been adapted to enable players to use equipment such as a crutch. Track and field sports have also been adapted in this manner to enable wheelchairs to be used.

There have also been adaptations to certain equipment already used in sports to enable disabled individuals to participate in those sports. This equipment includes the following:

  • Skis
  • Hand bikes
  • Water skis

The Paralympics

The Paralympics is a sporting event that takes place every four years directly after the Olympic Games. It is an event which caters specifically for athletes with physical and mental disabilities.

International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

The Paralympics is governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

Paralympic Potential Days (PPDs)

Currently in the UK there are specific events called Paralympic Potential Days (PPDs) whereby potential athletes can go in order to test their ability and see whether they have enough ability to be involved for Team GB at the 2012 Paralympics.