© Photo credit University of Malawi.

AT 2030 Para Sport Against Stigma

How can Para sport be used to tackle stigma to increase Assistive Tech (AT) adoption in Sub Saharan Africa.


The AT2030 Para Sport Against Stigma (PSAS) project embarked on a mission to address disability-related stigma in Africa by harnessing the power of Para sports to promote the adoption of assistive technology (AT). This innovative initiative took an in-depth look into broadcasting and community engagement as well as Para athlete development strategies. By focusing on the vital aspects of representation, education, and communication within Para sport, the project sought to shatter societal barriers, ultimately facilitating easier access to and the widespread adoption of assistive technology (AT).


The Para Sport Against Stigma (PSAS) project, spans from 2020 to 2024, capitalising on lessons learned from the London 2012 Paralympic Games. It is a collaborative effort led by Loughborough University London in partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the University of Malawi. The IPC took a significant step forward in raising awareness of Para sports and athletes in Sub Saharan Africa by providing free-to-air coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games for the first time through this project. This groundbreaking initiative marks a crucial step in amplifying visibility and recognition of Para sports in the region. 

Alongside the broadcasts, in Ghana, Malawi, and Zambia, the project supports in-school educational activities using the IPC’s official program, I’mPOSSIBLE, fosters Para athlete development in local communities before, during, and after the Paralympic Games, and, in Malawi, is conducting research to gain insights into enhancing community engagement in Paralympic activities.

This project is part of the AT2030 program, which receives funding from UK Aid and is led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub. AT2030’s primary objective is to identify effective strategies to enhance access to assistive technology. With an initial investment of £20 million to support scalable solutions, the program focuses on innovative products, new service models, and global capacity building.   Encouragingly, in 2023 UK Aid announced an additional investment of £31 million into the AT2030 program, marking a ground-breaking commitment to innovation and research. This increased investment aims to extend the program's impact reaching an additional 9 million individuals directly and 12 million more people indirectly enabling them to access life-changing assistive technology and fulfil their potential.

What are we doing:

Broadcasting and Community Engagement

We experimented with community engagement initiatives around the Tokyo 2020 broadcasts (e.g. local commentary, mobile screenings, theatre for development, media engagement) to gain insights around how Para sport can be used as tool to social inclusion in communities using qualitative and action research methods. 

Why?  The first ever free-to-air broadcast of a Paralympic Games to Sub Saharan Africa, provided a unique platform to learn and innovate around Para sport and disability stigma in a local context.  The strategy was to use in-depth research and to learn from local practice and voices in the context of Malawi.  Findings and toolkits aim to inform further initiatives and programming  

Para-athlete development

We strengthened Para Sport systems by implementing IPC led athlete development and education programmes and used qualitative and action research methods to reflect on implementation processes.  

Why?  Without systems, there will be no pathway for Para athletes to develop and nothing to talk about in terms of broadcasting. This work spread across Ghana, Zambia and Malawi, although the biggest step change was seen in Malawi.  Findings and toolkits aim to inform further initiatives and programme.   

Overall, we aimed to understand local contexts and learn from local voices around stigma to inform future strategies and initiatives to aid AT adoption. 

Key insights (so far):

  • Understanding of local disability contexts and narratives is important in perception change and stigma reduction. 
  • Focus on shifting power to Global South entities (decision making, activations, storytelling) creates relevant and relatable content. During Tokyo 2020, daily 52-minute highlight packages of African-centered content was distributed to 49 National broadcasters across Sub Saharan Africa with English, French and Portuguese commentary aiming to highlight stories of Para athletes from the region. The Development Broadcasting Unit of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) delivered Chichewa voiceovers for the Paralympic highlights packages; these interpretations were important in localising content for Malawi audiences and making it more accessible for audiences who did not speak English. 
  • Para athletes are powerful role models especially for parents of disabled children, but need to be empowered to tell their story, their way. See more about Emmanuel Nii Tettey Oku and Tahiru Haruna.
  • Paralympic Games coverage can’t be the only asset. Ground softening, local events and Para athletes are key to community engagement. It is important to use the periods between Games for engagement and perception change.  See Unlocking the potential of the Paralympics and Evidence brief on engaging communities in Para sport in Malawi.
  • Establishing a wider ecosystem around Para sport is crucial for growth and investment. Engagement beyond sport ministry and national federations help to embed NPC in civil society where its value to social inclusion can be demonstrated.
  • Decentralisation of knowledge to athletes and coach needed. Their voices are valuable and needed in planning and programming. 

Future steps: 

The project is cumulating a collection of tools, reports and resources for others working in this space.  In the coming months you can expect: 

  • Knowledge exchange on project learnings – this will be open to other organisations working in this space
  • Case study on Malawi’s journey
  • Practical toolkits that capture project learnings for community engagement and athletes

For more information on the project, please email Jennifer Wong, project manager.

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Our research team

Professor Jo Tacchi

Professor Jo Tacchi is the Principal Investigator on the project and the Associate Dean for Research at Loughborough University London.

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Holly Collison

Dr Holly Collison

Dr Holly Collison is a Lecturer within the Institute for Sport Business.

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Jessica Noske-Turner

Dr Jessica Noske-Turner

Dr Jessica Noske-Turner is a Lecturer within the Institute for Media and Creative Industries.

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Ben Cole

Ben Cole

Ben Cole is Head of Strategic Projects at Loughborough University London.

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Boeun Bethany Hong

Boeun Bethany Hong is a doctoral researcher within the Institute for Design Innovation.

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