Sport and physical education for persons with physical disabilities in Telugu-speaking states of India
The 2011 Census of India reports that the largest percentage of persons with disabilities (PwD) in India are citizens living with movement disabilities. For persons with movement disabilities, or more commonly referred to as persons with physical disabilities (PwPD), increased strength, improved mental well-being, and enhanced overall health functioning have been reported as the benefits experienced for engaging in regular physical activity (McBurney, Taylor, Dodd & Graham, 2003). Sports and physical education (SPE), which have been supported by disability rights laws and progressive education policies supporting inclusive education in India’s public schools, hold promise for PwPD to access regular physical activity. For example, India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Act of 2016’s details the disability sport rights of PwD in Chapter V. Even with these advances in policy, very little is known about the lived experiences of PwD in SPE in India. Hence, the purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the lived experiences of persons with physical disabilities (PwPD) in sport and physical education in Telugu speaking states (TSS) of India. Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory (BEST) formed the theoretical framework for this phenomenological research study. Utilizing the ten qualitative research criteria as described by Tracy (2010), this study inductively analyzed the structured interview responses of 18 PwPD (9 male; 9 female), who were recruited through purposive sampling from TSS in India. Three themes emerged from the data: (a) participation contingent on others, (b) limited awareness and knowledge, and (c) missing support systems. The PwPD participating in this study were generally not able to access SPE opportunities within their schools and at the community level. However, within the limited opportunities available, some families and community members (including teachers) at microsystem levels were supportive of SPE participation for the PwPD. It appears there is a critical need for the governments of the TSS in India to develop policies that will prioritize accessibility projects in schools, improve personnel preparation programs, and raise awareness among the state’s population about PwPD engaging in SPE activities.