The Agitos Foundation has so much more to do to ensure that the daily experience for the one billion people with an impairment - the world’s largest minority - is not unnecessarily disadvantaged by social exclusion, poverty and a lack of access to healthcare, education, leisure activities and employment.
The facts speak for themselves:
• One in seven people have an impairment, with armed conflict, hunger and disease adding to this figure on a daily basis.
• The World Health Organisation estimates 80 per cent of people with an impairment live in developing countries, and just three per cent of children in this group have access to education.
• More than 800 million people with an impairment live in poverty, with 3.5 million of them refugees.
• Even in developed countries, 50-70 per cent of people with an impairment are unemployed because employers wrongly assume they are unable to work - recent research reveals that one in three Americans would probably not hire someone with a physical disability.
We clearly hope that medical breakthroughs and peace initiatives will impact these numbers. However, we know that we are needed to provide hope and rehabilitation for many people. It can be said that we are relevant in developing countries as a result of malnutrition and also as a result of the emergence of first world diseases like diabetes.
So, how can sport help?
Inactivity leads to escalating medical costs and dependency, and conditions such as depression, fatigue and obesity.
Physical activity can offer a route to self-esteem and independence. This type of empowerment can help with access to education, employment and a sense of inclusion. Sport is only part of the solution, but its impact is overwhelming. Para sport can offer an emotional antidote and practical rehabilitation, as recognised by the former Secretary General of the UN, Mr Ban Ki-moon:
“The United Nations convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities aims to achieve human rights and development for all. The Paralympic Games are a powerful force for advancing this objective; they inspire not only athletes, but all of us, to recognise the unlimited potential of all persons”.