People say that the world we live in is filled with endless possibilities. While some possibilities lead to success and miracles, some have also led to accidents and abnormalities. People are born with disabilities and disorders and if we come to think about it, it is unfair and unjust how some sections of the population have to experience the hardships that we don’t have to. What stands out in some specially-abled people is their willpower. We, amongst us, have some exemplars who made sure that they create history and push themselves to their greatest potentials against all odds.

While we have people like Stephen Hawkings in the field of science, we also have people like Esther Vergeer in the field of sports. Unheard of, right?

If we sit down to make a list of people who overcame their disabilities and achieved remarkable success in the field of sports, it will astonish you as to how long the list will end up being. There are extraordinary people out there who will not fail to inspire you but it’s unfortunate that we still have little knowledge of them and the sports they pursue. This article aims to empower you with the knowledge of sports for the specially-abled, introduce to you some of the many inspiring personalities in our nation that have created history, and awaken you with information regarding the position of India when it comes to sports for the specially-abled.

In many civilizations, people with impairments encounter societal impediments, and disability elicits negative judgments and prejudice. Persons with disabilities are typically excluded from school, work, and communal life as a result of the stigma associated with disability, depriving them of opportunities critical to their social development, health, and well-being. Among certain communities, people with disabilities are perceived as reliant and unable, which encourages inactivity, which leads to limited mobility in people with physical impairments, regardless of the source of their condition.

Sport can assist to minimise the stigma and prejudice associated with disability by changing community attitudes toward people with disabilities by emphasizing their strengths and minimizing the inclination to focus on the impairment rather than the person.

Understanding Parasports

Parasports are sports that are practiced by persons who have a handicap, such as physical or mental limitations. Some parasports are modified versions of existing able-bodied sports, while others were invented exclusively for people with disabilities who do not have an able-bodied counterpart.

Although the number of disabled athletes participating in sport has risen over time, the number of athletes engaged in competitive sport, in particular, continues to lag behind that of their able-bodied counterparts. Almost any sport that able-bodied athletes can participate in, including archery, athletics, basketball, cycling, bowling, canoeing, equestrian, fencing, golf, kayaking, rowing, rugby, sailing, shooting, skiing, ice hockey, swimming, table tennis, tennis, water skiing, powerlifting, and others, can be modified for participation by individuals with disabilities.

The International Paralympic Committee and other International Sports Federations govern competitive sport for people with disabilities, culminating in the Paralympic Games, a major international multi-sport event for athletes with physical disabilities, including athletes with physical disabilities.

Indian sportspersons who broke barriers with hard work

  • Deepa Malik: The first Indian woman to win a medal in Paralympic Games and won a silver medal at the 2016 Summer Paralympics in shot put. She also won gold in the F-53/54 Javelin event at the para athletic Grand Prix held in Dubai in 2018.
  • Sharad Kumar: At the 2014 Asian Para Games, he won the gold medal in the high jump, breaking a 12-year Asian Games record, and reclaimed the world no. 1 position.
  • Harry Boniface Prabhu: An Indian quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player, one of the pioneers of the sport in India, and a medal winner at the 1998 World Championships. He was awarded the Padma Shree, the fourth highest civilian award, by the Government of India, in 2014.
  • Arunima Sinha: She is the world's first female amputee to scale Mount Everest, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Elbrus, Mount Kosciusko, Mount Aconcagua, Carstensz Pyramid, and Mount Vinson, she is also a seven-time Indian volleyball player.
  • Shekhar Naik: An Indian blind cricketer and a former captain of the India national blind cricket team. He captained India to victories at the T20 Blind Cricket World Cup in 2012 and Blind Cricket World Cup in 2014.

Where does India stand?

Sports does not only help people with their physical development but as we all know, there is more to it. It also enhances emotional and social development and it is the same for people who are specially-abled. In fact, it becomes all the more important to engage people with disabilities in sports to make them feel comfortable in an environment where they coexist with people who are able-bodied.

In the Indian constitution, Section 3 of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 provisions for Equality and Non-discrimination towards persons with disabilities. Section 30 of the Act, more specifically lays out the guidelines to encourage effective participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) in sporting activities. Along with this, over the past two decades, Central & State governments along with various organizations have taken a keen interest in developing sports infrastructure and training in India, which has contributed to improved results

In 2017, the Indian government launched 'Khelo India', the National Program for Sports Development Scheme. It has also created provisions for the encouragement and promotion of sports among PWDs as part of this endeavor. As a result, it has designated three sport-bodies to oversee the promotion of sports, training, competitions, and other activities for people with various disabilities:

  • Para Olympics Committee of India (PCI) – Physically disabled persons.
  • Special Olympics Bharat (SOB) – Mentally challenged persons.
  • All India Sports Council of Deaf (AISCD) for Deaf and Dumb individuals.

With all these special provisions being implemented, India has witnessed a lot of international victories in the field of sports for the specially-abled. This has not only helped India is emerging as a strong and growing nation but has also helped a lot of Indian children to raise their morale and gain the willpower to achieve something great in life.

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