Inclu­sion as a credo

Escape from the daily routine

Physi­cal acti­vi­ties are libe­ra­ting for people with disa­bi­li­ties and good for their morale. Non-profit orga­ni­sa­ti­ons make this possi­ble in an inclu­sive way or with special offers.

‘Physi­cal acti­vi­ties, such as those offe­red by Diffé­ren­ces Soli­dai­res (DS), allow me to go out into nature, meet people or expe­ri­ence sensa­ti­ons that I would not normally have,’ says Antoine. He menti­ons slides as an example. Antoine suffers from cere­bral palsy. This term is used to summa­rise symptoms rela­ted to early child­hood damage to the deve­lo­ping brain, which mani­fests itself, among other things, in move­ment disor­ders. When it comes to sports, he likes to take on chal­len­ges and surpas­ses hims­elf every time. Enthu­sia­sti­cally, he says: ‘The free­dom of move­ment makes me feel libe­ra­ted.’ What he appre­cia­tes about sport with DS is the great atmo­s­phere among the parti­ci­pants and the pilots. 

Good for health, good for morale

Laurence suffers from myopa­thy, a muscle condi­tion. ‘The oppor­tu­nity to be physi­cally active is very good for morale, to think about some­thing other than your disa­bi­lity or illness,’ she points out. ‘You can let off steam. Escape. There’s an adre­na­line rush if you like that .’ Jean-Luc, father of Lucille, a girl with physi­cal disa­bi­li­ties, points out that ‘Lucille, as a person with multi­ple disa­bi­li­ties, mostly moves around only during therapy. Over the years, this beco­mes a bit tedious. Thanks to the adap­ted methods, she can exer­cise outdoors. The dura­tion of the acti­vity is often much longer and more plea­sant than in physio­the­rapy.’ He says that Lucille lear­ned about DS about 10 years ago during a conver­sa­tion with a friend. The father empha­si­ses that ‘thanks to the friend and DS, she has been prac­ti­sing adap­ted sports and outdoor acti­vi­ties for 10 years now’. It is important for her to meet friends and exer­cise: ‘Sport for her means meeting friends, inde­pen­dent exer­cise, a game, the expe­ri­ence of speed and the feeling of free­dom.’ He belie­ves it also has a thera­peu­tic aspect. These athle­tes take up the advan­ta­ges that Diffé­ren­ces Soli­dai­res offers. 

With action and strength

DS was foun­ded more than 12 years ago. ‘At that time, there were few oppor­tu­nities for fami­lies with disab­led members to parti­ci­pate in sport and leisure acti­vi­ties,’ says Alain Bigey, who is respon­si­ble for fund­rai­sing at DS. The asso­cia­tion kicked off with a skiing project. One of the first acti­vi­ties was to train parents of disab­led child­ren or other inte­re­sted parties. Until then, trai­ning was reser­ved for a mino­rity. Then fami­lies were provi­ded with the appro­priate equip­ment. Bigey points out: ‘Our goal is to make the prac­tice of sporting acti­vi­ties possi­ble for all fami­lies. Today, more than 500 people bene­fit from our acti­vi­ties every year.’ The association’s mana­gers want to be mobile in order to meet the needs of the bene­fi­cia­ries where­ver they are. In this way, they can help fami­lies and indi­vi­du­als orga­nise their activities.

Brea­king out of the usual daily patterns

Behin­der­ten-Sport Club Zürich has been around for more than 60 years. The club is commit­ted to provi­ding the most attrac­tive, varied and profes­sio­nally super­vi­sed programme possi­ble. ‘With our wide and varied offer on diffe­rent days of the week, through regu­lar sporting events and compe­ti­ti­ons, we want to promote the inde­pen­dence of our members,’ says Alain Thüring, tech­ni­cal direc­tor of the club The club’s offer helps athle­tes to break out of the habi­tual daily struc­tures and main­tain diverse social conta­cts. ‘The long-term inclu­sion of our members at a sporting, coaching or board level is our ulti­mate goal,’ says Thüring. 

The Zurich club main­tains a close colla­bo­ra­tion with PluSport, the umbrella orga­ni­sa­tion for sport for the disab­led, which offers a wide range of services. Toge­ther, they are commit­ted to inclu­sion and engage in lobby­ing and spon­sor­ship acti­vi­ties at local and regio­nal level. Thüring empha­si­ses: ‘It is important that we keep membership fees as low as possible.’

Reaching out to young people

For membership recruit­ment, word-of-mouth and a direct approach to insti­tu­ti­ons for disab­led people have tradi­tio­nally been the most success­ful methods. This is also reflec­ted in the age struc­ture of the active members, says Thüring: ‘We want to make better use of modern chan­nels, such as social media, to reach our youn­ger target group.’ He explains that the grea­test hurdle is that poten­tial athle­tes commu­ni­cate or perceive infor­ma­tion on a diffe­rent level depen­ding on their disa­bi­lity. This makes it extre­mely diffi­cult to address many people toge­ther. As with all people, the chal­lenge is to conquer one’s weaker self. He belie­ves that it is important to reco­gnise that sport and exer­cise are a source of well-being, even inspi­ra­tion, that enable social contact, rather than a necessary evil. ‘As a conse­quence and post-effect of the pande­mic, we have also obser­ved an incre­a­sed reluc­tance by resi­den­tial homes and insti­tu­ti­ons to let their resi­dents parti­ci­pate in extern­ally orga­nised activities.’

Promo­ting inte­gra­tion and inclusion

On 15 April 2014, Switz­er­land rati­fied the United Nati­ons Conven­tion on the Rights of Persons with Disa­bi­li­ties (UN CRPD). PluSport has deve­lo­ped the corre­spon­ding measu­res and a vision: ‘People with disa­bi­li­ties are an equal and self-deter­mi­ned part of society. PluSpor­t’s sport, exer­cise and service offers promote equality and signi­fi­cantly contri­bute to an inclu­sive society.’ Regula Muralt, Head of Marke­ting & Fund­rai­sing at PluSport, says: ‘PluSport’s core focus is to deve­lop suita­ble offers for all people inte­re­sted in exer­cise and sport, and also to promote and advance inte­gra­tion and inclu­sion with main­stream sport.’ In view of the social chan­ges and move­ments in the Swiss sport system, the call for complete openness to engage in inclu­sion in sport is beco­m­ing incre­a­singly louder. The deve­lo­p­ment towards inclu­sion is happe­ning at a tremen­dous pace in terms of coope­ra­tion efforts and awareness-raising work, says the marke­ting mana­ger. She points out that there is still a need for clas­sic, tradi­tio­nal offers, such as sports clubs and sports camps. PluSport, she says, stri­ves to pursue and further expand both chan­nels in an effec­tive and targe­ted manner. 

Effi­ci­ent promo­tion of interests

PluSport is a strong umbrella orga­ni­sa­tion for sports for the disab­led. It is the compe­tence centre for sport, disa­bi­lity and inclu­sion. ‘We promote access to a diverse range of sports and physi­cal acti­vity for all,’ says Muralt, ‘and we ensure a closed chain of support ranging from offers for junior or recrea­tio­nal athle­tes to high-perfor­mance sports.’ She explains that the asso­cia­tion streng­t­hens and supports its more than 80 member clubs and ensu­res effec­tive sport opera­ti­ons in all regi­ons of Switz­er­land. PluSport is a member of Swiss Olym­pic and toge­ther with Roll­stuhl­sport Schweiz (RSS) is also a foun­der of the Swiss Paralym­pic Committee. 

The need to improve inclu­sion in elite sport

When it comes to perfor­mance-orien­ted sport for people with disa­bi­li­ties, PluSport Spit­zen­sport is respon­si­ble for seam­less deve­lo­p­ment. ‘The support chain is guaran­teed from the grass­roots with promo­tion of young athle­tes to the top level,’ says Muralt. ‘We support and promote disab­led child­ren, teen­agers and adults in elite sport. Our athle­tes parti­ci­pate in natio­nal and inter­na­tio­nal compe­ti­ti­ons, such as the Paralym­pics.’ Syner­gies with non-disab­led sport are sought whenever possi­ble. Howe­ver, Switz­er­land is lagging behind in inter­na­tio­nal compa­ri­son due to a lack of government invest­ment in top-level para-sport. This makes the profes­sio­nal trai­ning and further educa­tion of leaders and helpers all the more important. Muralt points out that this is guaran­teed, as well as indi­vi­dual program­mes and projects with coope­ra­tion part­ners. She explains: ‘As a publisher of highly profes­sio­nal and didac­tic teaching mate­ri­als, we ensure constant quality assurance at all levels.’ This is done in colla­bo­ra­tion with the part­ner orga­ni­sa­ti­ons Swiss Para­ple­gic Asso­cia­tion (SPA) and Procap. The three orga­ni­sa­ti­ons toge­ther form the inte­rest group IG Sport und Handicap.

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