A more even playing field for disabled people

11 March 2019

A major new University of Waikato scholarship aims to help open up sport and active recreation for disabled people regardless of their impairments.

Sport and active recreation can and regularly does marginalise disabled people. The University of Waikato’s Te Huataki Waiora School of Health, Sport and Human Performance has worked with other major national and regional organisations to come up with three areas for research. These projects are designed to help address some of the systemic problems that contribute to the exclusion of disabled people from sport and active recreation.

The scholarship will provide the opportunity for three full-time doctoral students to undertake research in the following areas:

  • Policies and practices that support inclusion in disability sport and active recreation
  • Coach development in disability sport
  • The welfare of Para athletes

The School’s Acting Dean AP Kirsten Petrie says that in essence the scholarship is about inclusiveness and equity. “Disabled communities are underserved in this country, and around the world. We want all New Zealanders to have the opportunity to engage in and enjoy active recreation and sport. This research is an important step toward supporting the incredible work our partner organisations already do in our communities”

University of Waikato Lecturer, Dr Robert Townsend says he is excited by the potential of the projects to enhance opportunities for disabled people to access and excel in sport and active recreation. “The roll-out of multiple PhD and Masters scholarships in disability sport is a world-first and further demonstrates the University of Waikato’s commitment to creating partnerships and establishing a disability sport research agenda that will make a difference to the lives of disabled people in New Zealand".

The University of Waikato developed the projects in collaboration with the Halberg Foundation, Paralympics New Zealand, Special Olympics New Zealand, Sport Waikato, and Parafed Organisations in New Zealand.

Fiona Allan (Chief Executive, Paralympics New Zealand) says research such as this is vital in continuing to evolve and grow Para sport in New Zealand. “It is great to be working across the sporting sector and with the University of Waikato to offer scholarships creating research that will benefit all disabled athletes. It will assist to make sport more accessible for disabled people and in turn support the creation of more systems and programmes to enable participation in Para sport. Within high performance Para sport our Para athletes and Paralympians work hard everyday to be the best they can be, their welfare is critical to their success and wellbeing. This research will inform further developments in Para athlete welfare support.”

The Chief Executive of The Halberg Foundation, Shelley McMeekan commends the University on the Scholarship initiative for post graduate students that has a focus on equity and inclusion within sport and active recreation.  “In particular, Project one around ‘Structural Inclusion, Equity and Access’ aligns with the Foundation’s vision of an inclusive New Zealand. We thank the University for the collaborative opportunity and look forward to seeing the research outcomes from the successful students.”

Applications for the scholarship close at the end of this month. Full details are available here.

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