Hall of Fame NFL player Mike Singletary once remarked, “Do you know what my favourite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”
It’s a firmly held belief that all kids have the right to play. But what if a portion of the world’s kids can’t access play due to barriers or discrimination?
WeThe15 is an organization made up of disability-specific sports organizations such as the International Paralympic Committee, Special Olympics, the Invictus Games Foundation, and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf. It also includes organizations from the private sector, researchers and the United Nations.
It aims to let the world know that 15% of the world’s population lives with disabilities. That’s over ONE BILLION people. The organization is also focused on:
- bringing awareness about the barriers that people with disabilities face on a daily basis
- working to reduce discrimination against those with disabilities
- promoting access to assistive technology
Did you know, for example, that only 5-15% of those in the world who need a wheelchair have access to one?
Every child deserves to be included in play
Think about your own town or city. Your neighbourhood. Your child’s school. If there are 300 children in your kid’s school, chances are that 45 of them are living with a disability. Are there provisions made for every kid to be included in all activities?
Some barriers to play
Many people see kids with disabilities instead of seeing a world that isn’t adequately equipped to include all levels of ability. Rather than an “us and them” mindset, Wethe15 challenges us to change our way of thinking. The focus, it notes, should be on discussions around developing active spaces and programs for all kids.
Inclusive vs. exclusive spaces
When we look closely at our built environment, there are many barriers to active movement. From parks to indoor programs, kids are often faced with physical environment challenges including:
- uneven surfaces (including damaged sidewalks)
- buildings with no elevators or power door openers
- narrow door openings
- inaccessible equipment
- no ramps
Lack of access to assistive devices & technology
Assistive products include items such as wheelchairs, hearing aids, canes, prosthetics, communication boards, crutches, braille displays, etc.
In terms of active living, advances in assistive technology have been made. Items such as beeping sports balls, all-terrain wheelchairs, recumbent bikes, sit-skis, and lightweight wheelchairs have opened the door to more kids participating in sport. In April of 2022, the French government reduced the VAT rate on a range of assistive equipment for sports from 20% to 5.5%.
But the cost to access assistive devices is still very steep all around the world. According to the World Health Organization, in fact, only one in 10 people who need them have access to assistive products.
WeThe15 is working to remove barriers, to end discrimination, and to transform the lives of over 1 billion people. Because every child should have the right to play.
Want to learn more about WeThe15?
To find out more about their work and how you can be a part of the movement, check out WeThe15’s website, or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.