© Photo by Amos Gumulira/Agitos Foundation.

Overcoming Stigma through Paralympic Sport

Over the next four years (2020-24), Loughborough University will lead on a £1.8million project entitled ‘Overcoming Stigma through Paralympic Sport’, which will build on lessons learned from the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

This unique research project looks at how representation, education and communication in Paralympic sport can break down barriers to stigma to support access and adoption of assistive technology. A four-pillar approach including: education, athlete development Paralympic broadcast and cross cutting research will focus activities in Ghana, Malawi, and Zambia.

Aiming to increase AT adoption across Africa, the research project hopes to enhance opportunities, education, and communication of Paralympic Values and Paralympic sport.

Background to the project

Stigma against disabled people is thought to be one of the barriers to the adoption, development and delivery of better assistive technology (AT) in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Stigma around disability is thought to lead to exclusion and poor standards of living for disabled people and as a consequence, creates a barrier to better AT adoption. Specifically, a lack of education about disability and the needs of disabled people creates fear and exclusion. This research project will tackle stigma and discrimination across Africa through education around the Paralympic Values and Paralympic sport to increase AT adoption.

As part of the legacy of London 2012, Loughborough University London has helped to found the Global Disability Innovation (GDI) Hub, an organisation charged with harnessing academic excellence, innovative practice and co-creation to tackle global challenges around disability.

The GDI Hub is leading a £19.8m global programme funded by the UK Department for International Development entitled: 'AT2030 - Life Changing Assistive Technology for All'. The AT2030 programme is made up of 11 sub-programmes, to which Loughborough University London's 'Overcoming Stigma through Paralympic Sport' project is one. Anchored to the objective of increasing access to Assistive Technology in Africa, Loughborough University London is leading this international, interdisciplinary and impactful 4-year project in collaboration with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the University of Malawi.

The programme will use a four-pillar approach towards overcoming the role of stigma in adoption of AT, consisting of education, athlete development, Paralympic broadcast and cross-cutting research activities.

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

Overcoming Stigma through Paralympic Sport 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.

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 Interim 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.

Beth Hong

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