Paralympic Games: Should the bidding criteria change?

8 September 2016

by Ola Abu Al Ghaib

Along with prestige, cities are drawn to hosting the Olympics and Paralympics for their potential to build job creation and swell tourist numbers.

Holding the twin summer games may be an expensive process, but candidates believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs if successful.

A Paralympic wheelchair racer

(Photo by: obaxterlovo/CC BY-NC-ND)

Cities as diverse as Rome, Los Angeles, Budapest and Paris have all thrown their hat into the ring for the next games up for grabs, 2024.

Could this competitive energy be harnessed for greater, broader good than it is currently? One way to do so would be to require a commitment to supporting individuals with disabilities.

The last minute problems with the ongoing Paralympics imply a half-hearted commitment to doing so.

These are the current criteria cities are expected to meet when bidding:

  • availability of enough space to host
  • capacity to generate new stadiums and venues
  • ability to provide necessary hotel accommodation
  • availability of adequate transport services
  • demonstrable ability to cope with the high level of security needed
  • convince citizens this is cost effective for them and the country
  • capacity to generate and maintain a highly positive media exposure

What could the criteria be?

Within the above, there is no mention of accessibility requirements, despite the fact the Paralympics have been running in parallel to the Olympics since 1992.

The cyclical link between poverty and disability, as well as enduring exclusion of persons with disabilities and their families, can be overcome with fair access to work.

We need to join efforts to create global mechanisms to encourage countries to take this up as a policy priority. Selection criteria for the games could be an interesting opportunity to consider.

Some of the points contained with the United Nations convention on rights of persons with disabilities could easily be adopted into the bidding criteria:

  • recognising the right of disabled people to work on an equal basis with others within national legal frameworks
  • prohibiting all forms of discrimination in the workforce, calling on employers to make reasonable accommodation adjustments for disabled people in the workplace, promoting opportunities for disabled people to be self-employed and facilitating their access to vocational and technical training
  • considering the additional costs associated with disability when defining wages and employment support systems 
  • providing different forms of opportunity, such as micro-finance schemes, person-centred supported-employment schemes, support to setting up a business, etc.  

How can governments implement policy?

In order to effectively legislate against discrimination, disability first needs to be afforded a legal definition. Cultural attitudes are as pivotal as legislation, but it is generally accepted that deterrents must also be prescribed to disincentivise employers from showing prejudice toward potential or existing disabled employees.

In Brazil’s case, new legislation passed last year established a custodial punishment of one to three years for those who discriminate against disabled people.

The Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Act, signed off by recently impeached President Dilma Roussef in 2015, goes some way toward meeting the rest of the criteria of — and values behind — the U.N. convention.

The law creates:  

  • an allowance to be paid to people with moderate to severe disabilities who enter the labour market
  • reserves 10% of the slots available in the selection process for courses of higher education for the disabled
  • creates an inclusion database to enable the identification and characterisation of disabled people and the barriers that prevent the enforcement of their rights.

Brazil has recognised this is not just about supporting disabled people keen and able to work to improve their standard of living; it is in the nation’s own economic interests.

A greater labour force improves the economic health of the country.

This article first appeared on the Devex website. 

Ola Abu Al Ghaib is the global head of influencing at Leonard Cheshire Disability.

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