© Photo by Amos Gumulira/Agitos Foundation.

Para Sport Against Stigma

Para Sport Against Stigma is an innovative project that looks at how representation, education and communication in Para sport can break down barriers to stigma to support access and adoption of assistive technology.

The four-year project (2020-2024) builds on learnings from the London 2012 Paralympic Games and is delivered by Loughborough University London, in partnership with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and University of Malawi, Chancellor College. The IPC is providing free-to-air coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Sub-Saharan Africa as part of its efforts to raise awareness of Para sport and its athletes in the region. In Ghana, Malawi and Zambia, the project will go beyond broadcasting with in-school education activities in schools (using the IPC’s official education programme I’mPOSSIBLE) and Para athlete development activities in communities before, during and after the Paralympic Games. Loughborough University London and University of Malawi, Chancellor College will conduct research around the Paralympic activities to gain insights aimed at influencing future communication and Para athlete development practices.

Para Sport Against Stigma is part of AT2030, a programme funded by UK Aid and led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub. AT2030 will test ‘what works’ to improve access to assistive technology and will invest £20m to support solutions to scale. With a focus on innovative products, new service models, and global capacity support, the programme will reach 9 million people directly and 6 million more indirectly to enable a lifetime of potential through life-changing assistive technology.

Background to the project

The Paralympic Movement is recognised globally as a valuable platform for changing disability perceptions and promoting a more inclusive society. Around 15% of the world’s population - approximately 1 billion people - live with disabilities. Eighty percent are living in developing countries . Access to assistive technology such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, walking sticks and new digital solutions can make learning, working and full participation in their families possible. Enabling inclusion and independence for people with disabilities are central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Stigma has been identified as a major barrier to the adoption of assistive technology in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). The London 2012 Paralympic Games had a significant impact on the way the British public perceives disability. Media campaigns, school programmes and television coverage in the lead up, during and after the event all contributed to raising visibility and reducing disability stigma across the UK.

Building on the learnings from London 2012, the Para Sport Against Stigma project aims to gain a better understanding of how the Paralympic Games, Para sport and its athletes can reduce stigma in an African context.

The Paralympic Movement is still very young in Africa. There are limited opportunities to see and try Para sport for both people with disabilities and the public. By facilitating TV coverage of the Paralympic Games and more opportunities to try and experience Para sport, it is hoped this will simulate a shift in the way disability and assistive technology is perceived at all levels of society.

Project objective

The aim of the project is to examine how disability stigma can be overcome through Para sport in order to increase assistive technology adoption in Africa through a four-pillar approach (education, athlete development, Paralympic broadcast and cross-cutting research activity).

Pillar 1: Research

Spanning across the other three pillars, this cross-cutting research activity will consist of desk research, qualitative, ethnographic and action-based research approaches.​

This pillar aims to develop:

  • a communication for Social Change Toolkit to inform scale-up of education and communication programmes for Paris 2024​
  • a Para athlete development guidebook​
  • a research report on Tokyo 2020 (postponed to 2021) broadcasts to inform future Paralympic broadcasts to Africa.

Pillar 2: Education

Focussing on inclusion, the education pillar of the project centres around I’mPOSSIBLE. I'mPOSSIBLE is an education/ curriculum package created by the International Paralympic Committee for teachers to use in schools​, which aims to promote Paralympic values, making an inclusive society for all​.

Research contributions in this pillar will include:

  • Stigma + communicative ecology mapping​
  • Experiment with child-friendly, more agile monitoring and evaluation​
  • Experiment with complementary communication/education approaches

Pillar 3: Athlete development

The third pillar, athlete development, will see the International Paralympic Committee to deliver a programme to support NPCs in three countries to develop para sport, includes: capacity building, coach development, talent identification etc. ​

Research contributions included within the third pillar includes:

  • Collaborative research with IPC and NPCs in Zambia, Ghana and Malawi to develop athlete development guidebook.

Pillar 4: Paralympic broadcast

The fourth and final pillar of the project, Paralympic broadcast, intends to show daily digests of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in up to 42 African countries.

The research contributions include:​

  • Communicative ecology mapping​
  • Production of interviews and audience research during the Games​
  • Experiments with local story/content production​
  • Experiments with athlete storytelling and experience.

Supporting AT2030

Para Sport Against Stigma will contribute to the delivery of AT2030 through:

  • Reaching 1.3million people directly and 6 million indirectly contributing to decreasing stigma and increasing adoption of AT
  • Coordinating research, evidence and impact on how to overcome stigma through sport and sharing evidence and learning as part of the AT2030 research team
  • Answering four research questions to be published in leading academic and non-academic venues
  • Informing the global AT mission and partnership for Assistive Technology.

Project video

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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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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Jennie Wong

Jennie Wong is the Project Development Manager at the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub.

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Dr Emma Pullen

Dr Emma Pullen is a Lecturer in Sport Management in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences.

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Nik Diaper

Nik Diaper is the Head of Para Sport at Loughborough University.


Boeun Bethany Hong

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

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Damian Haslett

Damian is a post-doctoral researcher who joined Loughborough University London in December 2020.

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Sam Ruddock Paralympian

Sam Ruddock

Loughborough University alumni, Sam Ruddock, is a Paralympic athlete who represents Great Britain.

You can read the WHO - World Report on Disability (2011) here