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25 January 2021
Human Rights Council
Issued by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Sport and leisure, Persons with disabilities
In its resolution 43/23, the Human Rights Council requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to prepare a thematic study on participation in sport under article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) prior to its 46th session.
The report includes recreational and leisure activities alongside more narrowly defined sporting activities, all covered in article 30(5) of the Convention. During the Convention’s negotiations, Member States considered covering physical activity under this article. At the international level, “sport” has developed into a generic term comprising sport for all, physical play, recreation, dance, organized, casual, competitive, traditional and indigenous sports and games in their diverse forms (see the Kazan Action Plan adopted by UNESCO). Hence, the report provides an overview of the obligation under article 30(5) of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to participate in recreation, leisure and sports on an equal basis with others, including in mainstream and disability-specific sporting activities, recreational, leisure and tourism venues, and in education. It contains guidance on a human rights-based approach to develop inclusive and disability-specific physical activity and sports and recommendations to assist States in implementing their obligations under international human rights law, looking both at settings and sectors under the direct control of the State, as well as regulating and monitoring private sector activity relating to physical activity and the practice of sports by persons with disabilities.
Persons with disabilities face several barriers to engaging in physical activity and sports, including inaccessible physical environments, attitudinal barriers, the lack of suitable equipment, support, disability-specific knowledge, accessible information, and the likelihood of extra costs. In addition, there are far fewer resources allocated to promote inclusive and disability-specific sports, recreation and leisure. As a result, persons with disabilities are more likely to be physically inactive and have poorer health outcomes.
Over the years, there has been growing attention to the role of sports in promoting social inclusion and human rights for all members of society, including persons with disabilities. Article 30(5) of the Convention explicitly recognises the right of persons with disabilities to participate in physical activity and sports on an equal basis with others and calls on States to enable their participation, including by protecting against discrimination and dismantling structural inequalities in access and funding, in particular to ensure the inclusion of children with disabilities and women and girls with disabilities.
Article 30(5) of the Convention addresses both mainstream and disability-specific sports, encompassing sports competitions, physical activity in education, and recreation and leisure. Persons with disabilities have rights, both as participants engaging in physical activities and sports, as well as in the role of spectators, consumers or organisers of activities. More widely, States have the obligation to actively involve persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in decision-making relevant to sports and physical activity.
In order to meet the obligations under article 30(5), States should undertake steps to: review legislation and regulations to ensure non-discrimination, equal access and equitable funding distribution for inclusive and disability-specific sports; invest in accessible infrastructure including through procurement policies; ensure the availability of assistive technologies and support, including grants to engage in inclusive and disability-specific sports, fostering cross-movement collaboration between athletes with disabilities and the larger community of athletes; promote awareness-raising, research and data collection for more effective and tailored measures to increase engagement by persons with disabilities in physical activity and sport, particularly by women and girls with disabilities; and promote technical cooperation and exchange through international cooperation.
While advances are being made globally for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the area of sport and physical activity, further efforts are needed to strengthen enforcement and accountability mechanisms to monitor resource allocation and track progress. In addition, States have a duty to regulate private actors to ensure non-discrimination against persons with disabilities and enable access to physical activity and sports; States should work with the private sector to support the development of inclusive practices.
In preparation of the study, OHCHR invited States and relevant stakeholders to present submissions by transmitting a set of questions related to existing legislation and policies relating to the participation of persons with disabilities in sports and physical activities. As a result, OHCHR received the responses listed below.
NGOs and Civil Society Organizations
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