International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons has spoken of his excitement about a £1.89 million ($2.5 million/€2.1 million) collaborative project that aims to combat stigma and discrimination against people with disabilities in Africa.
The IPC has teamed up with Loughborough University in Britain and the Chancellor College at the University of Malawi to launch the Para Sport Against Stigma initiative.
The four-year project is set to examine how the use of Para sport can change attitudes about disability and assistive technology in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia.
A week-long I'mPOSSIBLE Educator Course, held online due to coronavirus restrictions, started on Monday (November 16) to get the programme underway.
"We are very excited to be partnering with Loughborough University and the University of Malawi on the Para Sport Against Stigma project," said Parsons.
"We want the Paralympic Games to have an even greater impact on society by placing disability at the heart of the diversity debate and by using Para sport as a vehicle to drive the human rights agenda.
"We know already that our I’mPOSSIBLE education programme is spreading the vision of the Paralympic Movement to young people and having a meaningful impact of their understanding of inclusion."
The project is part of AT2030, a programme funded by UK Aid and led by the Global Disability Innovation Hub.
According to the IPC, AT2030 will test what works to improve access to assistive technology and invest £20 million ($26.6 million/€22.4 million) to "support solutions to scale".
The programme bids to reach nine million people directly and six million more indirectly to enable a lifetime of potential through life-changing assistive technology.
Using a four-pillar approach - education, athlete development, broadcasts and research activities - it is hoped the project will build on lessons from the London 2012 Paralympic Games and inspire more understanding of disability and inclusion.
It is believed that a lack of understanding about disability and the needs of persons with disabilities can create exclusion within communities.
The stigma around disability is also thought to be one of the barriers to the usage, development, and delivery of better assistive technology, including wheelchairs, hearing aids, prothesis and glasses in low- and middle-income countries.
Over the next four years, the IPC is bidding to use the project to change you people's perceptions of those with disabilities.
The IPC is also looking to increase opportunities for people in sub-Saharan Africa, through access to live and pre-recorded sports broadcasts and utilising Loughborough University’s research, which is set to be disseminated into a series of publications.
"This project offers Loughborough University the chance to work with international partners across academic and practice fields," said Jo Tacchi, associate dean for research at Loughborough University London.
"The research promises to deliver real impact into the work of the IPC and help to build our understanding around issues of stigma and disability, and the positive role Para sport might play."
Nik Diaper, head of Para sport at Loughborough University, added: "The Paralympic Games have seen rapid growth over the last few years but there is a risk that large gaps emerge between established and developing nations.
"If the Games are to remain a global event then understanding why these gaps exist and addressing them is crucial for the future of the Paralympic movement."
Supported by the National Paralympic Committees in Ghana, Malawi and Zambia, the project is expected to run until the autumn of 2024.