In the recently published Future of Sport in New Zealand, a report by Synergia for Sport New Zealand, sees a future for sport in the country where “[u]niversal design principles, accompanied by staff competencies in working with people of different abilities, enable full participation at community sports hubs by all age groups and disabled people.”
Overall though, the report makes few references to disability sport, even as it claims that up to a quarter of the population has a some form of disability. It uses the word disability or a variant only seven times. There is one small section titled “Sport and Disabilities” that is buried at point 5.1.5. It says in its entirety, “With around one-quarter of the population reporting some form of disability, a challenge for sport is to ensure it is accessible for all. This extends across making sporting options available (both mainstream and disability-specific), ensuring accessible facilities, and continuously building an inclusive sporting culture. The opportunity is that as sport becomes more accessible for disabled people, it also becomes more accessible for the wider population, enabling other groups, such as older people, to also take part.” Disability sport type governance is mentioned later in the section about the structure of sport, where the report says, “The National Sport Inclusion Alliance in Australia offers an example of organisations joining forces to achieve greater scale and reach on an issue of mutual concern or benefit, in this case the disability sector,” The report identifies six themes impacting the future of sports: offering of sport, individualism, connection, lifestyle and health, the built environment, and the structure of sport.
According to the report, “It is well established that physical activity has a strong role to play in improving and health and wellbeing and protecting against a wide range of chronic and disabling health conditions.” It also says, “Sport and recreation is well-established as a major contributor to health and wellbeing. Sport has a key role to play in containing the growing costs of healthcare, and in preventing and managing long-term conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as mental health.” In the lifestyle and health section, the report cites some research done in a New Zealand context related to this, but does not make a leap to actually discuss in any greater depth about how sport could be better integrated into this plan and be more inclusive of people with disabilities. It leaves the section on the unsatisfying note of, “Furthermore, the plethora of sport and recreation opportunities being introduced potentially increases the contribution sport can make in this area; their tailoring to the time demands and other needs of people can enhance sport’s contribution to health.” Most of the discussion around any type of disability is framed around health maintenance, and not integration and inclusion. It serves as a strange throw back to the early days of disability sport, when it was purely therapeutic and non-competitive. At the same time, the report does not treat elite able-bodied sport in the same way.