Paralympics: Petition calls for more events to be opened up for people with learning disabilities

10/24/2016

8 percent of medals (12 out of 147) won by Team GB at the Paralympics were won by athletes with a learning disability, despite them making up just 3 percent of the overall Team GB. This success adds extra urgency to Mencap’s petition asking the International Paralympics Committee to increase the number of events athletes with a learning disability are allowed to compete in.

Photo: Rio2016 man playing boccia; Copyright: Andi Weiland | Gesellschaftsbilder.de

Just 3 out of 23 sports open to athletes with a learning disability; © Andi Weiland | Gesellschaftsbilder.de

Currently athletes with a learning disability are allowed to compete for just 18 out of 528 gold medals. There have been concerns around a lack of demand among athletes with a learning disability to compete at elite levels, however the number of medals won by Team GB athletes with a learning disability proves this wrong.

Over 260 disabled athletes went to Rio as part of the GB team, and just seven of these were athletes with a learning disability. Despite the small number selected, athletes with a learning disability contributed 4 gold, 6 silver and 2 bronze medals to the team’s overall record tally.

Swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate, who is an ambassador for Mencap, won 2 silver and 1 bronze medals in her events, which included 200m freestyle, 200m individual medley and 100m backstroke.

Currently, athletes with a learning disability can only compete in 3 out of the 23 Paralympic sports. Within those 3 sports, there are just 9 events open to athletes with a learning disability. Prior to the start of the Paralympics, Mencap launched a petition to the International Paralympic Committee calling for more events to be opened up to athletes with a learning disability, which has received over 3,600 signatures to date.

Harry Roche, who has a learning disability, said "All of the athletes who competed at the Paralympics did fantastically. I’d like to say a huge congratulations to all of the athletes with a learning disability who took part and won a medal. I’ve really enjoyed watching the Paralympics this year, it has been really good to watch athletes with a learning disability do so well.

I really hope that at the next Paralympics we will see even more athletes with a learning disability take part in a larger number of events. It is unfair that athletes with a learning disability can only compete in 3 out of the 23 sports. The Paralympics has shown that there is a lot of talent and there needs to be more opportunities made available. We must overcome these barriers as soon as possible."

REHACARE; Source: Mencap

More about Mencap at: www.mencap.org.uk