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World Disabilities Map Visualizes the Power and Energy of Tens of millions of Athletes Across the World

By Sarah Hillyer, University of Tennessee and Carolyn Spellings, University of Tennessee

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was incorporated into law in 1990, it became illegal to restrict access to employment, education, or government-funded facilities because of disability. The ADA made it easier for wheelchair users, the elderly or disabled children to navigate public spaces and to have equal access to learning.

Many Americans who are not disabled benefit from the ADA. The construction of ramps, curbs, wider halls and audio instructions at zebra crossings were the result of this law. The ADA made it easy for a parent to push a stroller down the sidewalk, cross the street led by audible prompts, or for students with dyslexia to study and perform at school.

December 3rd is United Nations International Day for People with Disabilities. While ADA protects the rights of Americans with disabilities, are there safeguards worldwide? Are there guidelines to protect a child born with hearing loss in Ethiopia? Or the Venezuelan woman who lost the use of her legs in a car accident? What about a teenager in Senegal who was born with Down syndrome?

The Center for Sport, Peace and Society at the University of Tennessee created the Global Disability Rights Map, an interactive map that advocates for the rights of people with disabilities worldwide. The card can also be used to empower those who wish to create policies to protect people with disabilities.

Level the playing field

In 2016, JP Maunes, a disability rights attorney and sign language interpreter, and Adeline Dumapong, a Paralympic bronze medalist, both from the Philippines, sat at a Washington, DC restaurant that loved the subtitle technology on television. For the millions of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, subtitles provide information about what can be seen even when it is not possible to hear.

Neither Maunes nor Dumapong are deaf. However, subtitles were more than the convenience of being able to follow a sports commentary in a noisy restaurant. They could see what was possible for people with disabilities in their own country. As Filipino citizens, Maunes and Dumapong wanted to know what they can do to raise awareness of discrimination against people with disabilities.

They had seen American athletes use their professional platforms to speak out against discrimination, unequal pay and sexual harassment, including Colin Kaepernick and Megan Rapinoe. How could you use your power as an athlete to advocate for broader laws and guidelines?

Changing the world through sport

Manues and Dumapong participated in our program, the University of Tennessee’s Center for Sport, Peace and Society, which has trained more than 80 athletes and professionals from 50 countries who work in the sports sector. Your questions, discussions with lawyers around the world, and the work of the Center for the Advancement of the Rights of People with Disabilities prompted our team to create the Global Disability Rights Map.

Many people want to repeat the protection ADA offers in their own communities. The center offers training on existing laws and guidelines. It also helps athletes develop sport-based initiatives and improve the lives of people with disabilities in their home countries.

The Global Disability Rights Map describes the laws and guidelines in a particular country and connects them to the Paralympic Movement, a global initiative to promote parasports and to support parasports athletes in achieving outstanding athletic performance. The map also provides information for sports activists on how to advocate for broader rights.

There are websites that explain national and international laws and guidelines for the protection of people with disabilities, such as the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. However, there has never been an interactive map of the world showing the rights of people with disabilities combined with information about Paralympics, Special Olympics and Deaflympics.

The map contains country-specific information about the national offices of the Paralympic Committee, Special Olympics and Deaflympics, as well as statistics about a country’s participation in the two most recent international competitions. In addition, the card includes a biographical sketch of a local athlete who uses sport as a tool to promote the rights of people with disabilities and promote greater social inclusion.

The map was designed as an open source platform, allowing users to update and add new information on laws and regulations, as well as new sports-based initiatives for disability rights. Updates will be submitted through the website and verified for accuracy by the faculty of the center before showing them on the map.

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Mapping rights around the world

One of the goals of the center is to enable stronger partnerships and better collaboration across the sports sector. For example, the International Paraplympic Committee will sign a historic cooperation agreement with the International Disability Alliance to “advance the rights of people with disabilities and to jointly commit to using parasport as a vehicle to advance the human rights agenda.” Parasport is our sport Map visually shows how interdisciplinary efforts by government, parasports, and local initiatives can advance human rights.

People with disabilities face numerous obstacles every day. Our work at the center helps empower people to become lawyers and break down these barriers. When researching obstacles for people with disabilities, this map can serve as an effective tool in strengthening these important human rights.The conversation

Sarah Hillyer, director, Center for Sport, Peace, and Society, University of Tennessee; and Carolyn Spellings, director of evaluation, research, and accountability and clinical assistant professor, University of Tennessee

This article is republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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