People with a physical disability exercise significantly less than people without a disability. The Paralympic Games, which begin on Tuesday, are meant to encourage them to exercise more. In recent years, more and more local initiatives have been added to get the target group into the sport.
“Sports participation for people with physical disabilities has remained somewhat the same in recent years,” says Caroline van Lindert, a researcher at the Muller Institute, while the proportion of people without a disability who participate in sports has increased slightly. In 2019, 53 percent of the total population (over 12 years old), compared to 24 percent of people with a physical disability.
According to Van Lindert, there are two barriers to this target group. “You have personal thresholds, such as fear, pain, and lack of knowledge. In addition, there are environmental factors: insufficiently adapted accommodation, complex transportation, expensive aid required.”
Sports Aid Mobility Library
Removing these barriers requires a lot of tailored guidance and approach. More and more municipalities are aware of this. For example, all municipalities now employ special neighborhood sports coaches who can guide people.
Another new initiative is the Mobility Library in The Hague. The Sports Aid Lending Service is a municipal project with The Hague University of Applied Sciences and Basalt Rehabilitation and the Sports and Exercise Knowledge Center. “People can come here for advice, but they can also borrow a balance bike or a hand bike to try it out,” says exercise advisor Simone Hoek. “And if they like it, I can help them apply for this tool.”
Double lower leg amputation
She explained to Erwin Duquesnoy that there was a hand bike. Duxnoy lost his lower legs due to diabetes, but he was very athletic before that. “I thought for a long time that I would go snowboarding or surfing again, but now I’ve given up because that can no longer be,” he says.
Because as soon as he began to move again, the next blow came: Duquesnoy also had to undergo a kidney and pancreas transplant. “It’s been hard work on my recovery, but now I’m ready to start exercising again, because keeping up the exercise is vital to me. The will is there, but you can’t do it alone. Because where do you start?”
He can buy a handbike via via, but still misses out on a boost: “I want to pick it up right away, so I didn’t pick the borrowed one. If you know someone who says, ‘Come on, we’ll go bike back on Saturday.’ Someone has a disability too. But I don’t know someone. Like this. I don’t see a handbike on the street either.”
I need more
Most municipalities now have a clear picture of the target group, says Caroline van Lindert of the Molier Institute. But there are still big differences, for example in what kind of Medicaid they reimburse. Every municipality now has a neighborhood sports coach, but this does not mean that a person can fully focus on the target group of people with disabilities. “Of all the FTEs available to neighborhood sports coaches in the Netherlands (about 3,500), according to municipalities, 220 FTEs are used for people with disabilities,” says Van Lindert. “The fact that the municipalities have an interest in the target group does not mean that there is also an increased participation in sports.”
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