Of Diversity and Disability

(photo credit: diversitytoday.co.uk)

(photo credit: diversitytoday.co.uk)

What does diversity mean in sport? What does diversity look like? What does inclusion feel like?

Over the past ten years I’ve been part of many conversations about diversity in sport. Here are some of the things that adults say in every conversation:

“When we start excluding individuals, we lose an important aspect of team.”


“We need to provide an environment for underrepresented athletes to feel like they are a part of the team.”


“Not everyone of color feels that they are of color.”

Ethnic diversity always dominates the conversation. Eventually someone always brings up socio-economic diversity as maybe more important than what athletes look like.

But interestingly, the conversation never tilts toward disability. That’s always a separate meeting. A separate conversation.

Why aren’t we also talking about disability when we’re talking about diversity? Why aren’t we, in addition to having conversations about ethnicity and poverty, also having conversations about how to include kids with autism, how to include kids who use wheelchairs to navigate the world, how to create sport opportunities for adults with post-traumatic stress?

To co-opt the language of the person who said, “Not everyone of color feels that they are of color,” not everyone with an amputation feels that they are a person with a disability.

Especially the kids. One parent who experienced discrimination because she was a child when her family immigrated to the US says her kids don’t feel like they are a minority. They have been included all their lives. Being on diverse teams is all they know.

If we include kids with disabilities and talk to them the same way we talk to every other kid, and if we make them feel like they are a part of the team, chances are they will grow up feeling less like a person with a disability and more like a person.

Let’s expand the way we think of diversity in sport. It’s more than skin color and income.

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