As part of Caudwell Children’s ongoing strategic partnership with Jasdev Singh Rai and the Sikh Human Rights Group, on Friday 5 March, Caudwell Children’s CEO Trudi Beswick was once again honoured to be invited to deliver a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council Panel Discussion on Disabilities.
The theme for this panel discussion was the obligation under article 30(5) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to enable persons with disabilities to participate in recreation, leisure and sports on an equal basis with others, including in mainstream and disability-specific sporting activities, in sporting, recreational, leisure and tourism venues, and in education.
Trudi Beswick’s statement in full:
Sport as a form of play is fundamental in the cognitive, social and physical development of children irrespective of ability or impairment.
Societal barriers to participation for disabled children have resulted in compounded health and attainment inequalities as well as wider societal exclusion.
In addressing the rights of persons with disabilities to have equitable access to sport and activity we ask The Human Rights Council and State members to consider the disparities found between elite and grassroots sports development pathways.
States undertaking obligations under article 30(5) of the Convention report on successful elite disability sport pathways, leading to representation at Paralympic or Commonwealth competition, but such high-profile attainment can also have an adverse effect on participation by accentuating the inequalities in access to funding at grassroots level.
A previous SportsAid report found 74% of disabled children in the UK reported one of the major barriers to participating in sport was their lack of money and the unsuitability of sports facilities available.
With the average cost of specialist disability equipment being several times that of standard equipment, when a child demonstrates interest in sport it almost always comes with a financial burden far greater than their non-disabled peers.
At elite level, while complete equity has not yet been achieved, funding for elite athletes continues to progress towards a level of parity with their non-disabled peers.
However, financial barriers to grassroots participation remaining widely unaddressed.
Without recognition and action to amend the inequalities in access to sport and funding at grassroots level, participation will remain unacceptably low.
Furthermore, The Human Rights Council and State members are invited to consider the importance of hidden disabilities and the definition of disability when addressing the structural inequalities in access to sport and funding.
Awareness, understanding and acceptance of hidden disabilities in addressing accessibility to sport and physical activity is required if countries are to reach higher levels of participation among their disabled populations.
With 15% of the UK population living with neurodivergent conditions including Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia and Dyspraxia but a systemic lack of understanding and awareness regarding accessibility for a neurodiverse population, this creates a further barrier to participation.
Inequalities in the definition of disability and the consequential attitudinal approaches to accessibility of facilities, funding or support have effected rates of participation from people with neurodivergent conditions.
Recognition of sensory and social differences, as well as physical disabilities, is required to make reasonable adjustments and attain an inclusive approach to activity participation.
In order to proactively address the challenges highlighted here, we invite member states to share working examples where best practice can be demonstrated with the Council.
Effective partnership working among sports facilitators, athletes and NGO’s has demonstrated opportunities to overcome some of the inequalities found in accessing grassroots disability sport.
For instance, Caudwell Children, a pan-disability charity who developed their sports equipment service in 2008 in preparation to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have continued to successfully work with partners to remove financial barriers to participation for disabled children.
In collaboration with co-funders including Barclays Wealth bank and The Edward Gostling Foundation, Caudwell Children has successfully provided funding support for hundreds of young disabled athletes for whom specialist equipment costs were a barrier to progression in their given sport.
Working alongside sports clubs, governing bodies and the wider education and children’s activities sectors in the UK, Caudwell Children have promoted inclusive sport and created role models from the many disabled athletes who have participated at local club level, up to elite Paralympic standard, thanks to their support.
This effective collaborative approach demonstrates the opportunity available to member States to address the structural inequalities in access to sport for disabled people.