Exploring gender equity in a Canadian para-sport organization


XXX is an annual multi-sport event for athletes with a disability. XXX is a division of an umbrella organisation promoting universal accessibility and full participation of people with disabilities using the levers of sport, leisure, and culture. While the intersection of gender+, disability, and sport has been studied, much of this research has focused on the high-performance context (Culver et al., 2022). Providing competition opportunities from youth and first-contact athletes to Paralympians, XXX presents an interesting case to explore how gender+, inclusion, and disability intersect within the organization. The data consisted of eight semi-structured interviews with decision-makers and volunteers, two athlete focus groups, and informal observations during the 2022 event. The results of the reflexive thematic analysis showed the event acting as a potential gateway for Para-athletes to engage in disability sport, across age and level of impairment. The XXX decision-makers saw disability as the critical marginalizing characteristic to address, aligned with their mission of 'universal accessibility.' The degree of impairment seemed to be a more salient marker of inclusion than gender+ or other identifying characteristics such as race or sexual orientation. Therefore, the focus was on increasing the number of participants with severe impairments and working with support stakeholders to develop competitions for those whose impairments prevented them from participating in traditional adapted categories (e.g., power chair slalom races). The authors recommend XXX further examine its policies, procedures, and practices, and consider how an intentional gender lens could be applied to enhance its existing equity, diversity, and inclusion strategies.

Acknowledgments: Défi-Sportif AlterGo