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Disability and sport discussed at latest NI Sport & Human Rights Forum meeting

06 May 2022

Welcome steps have been taken to increase accessibility and tackle inequalities experienced by persons with disabilities in sport, but more needs to be done. This was the overarching message at the latest Northern Ireland Sport and Human Rights Forum meeting held this week.

Members heard from Craig Spence at #WeThe15 on their worldwide campaign to promote inclusion and end discrimination facing those with disabilities. Head of the School of Sport at Ulster University Dr Paul Kitchin also provided attendees with much food for thought highlighting research that included a focus on barriers to inclusion and accessibility for those playing, working in, or watching sport.

The Forum heard about the increasing popularity of Wheelchair Basketball in Northern Ireland. Phil Robinson, Wheelchair Basketball Performance Officer from Disability Sport NI, outlined the development of the sport. Phil also drew attention to the difficulties that some of those wishing to participate face, including lack of opportunity, costs attached and physical access.

Jason Browning, Disability Access Officer from the Irish Football Association, shared his amazing story and experience in the world of sport, including his rise to the international level by representing Northern Ireland in Powerchair Football.

NI Human Rights Chief Commissioner, Alyson Kilpatrick said:

“Human rights play an important role in sport and this was a topic members of the Forum have a very keen interest in learning more about. Hearing first-hand from those playing, working in, or leading research and campaigns on disability sports provided an opportunity for members to gain new perspectives and ideas on how to make sport more inclusive for all.

The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires policies and practices that ensure persons with disabilities can participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities. It was heartening to hear about the progress that has been made to fulfill this obligation, but the presentations from our speakers also gave members a stark reminder of the work that we need to do to increase equality and accessibility in sport.

I would like to thank all our speakers for taking the time to share their research and experiences with the Forum. It has been an incredibly useful session for members.”



  • The Northern Ireland Sport & Human Rights Forum was established in May 2019. The Forum has been established as a multi-stakeholder platform to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and good practice on sport and human rights issues.
  • The Chair of the NI Sport and Human Rights Forum is Conal Heatley, Business and Operations Manager at Commonwealth Games Northern Ireland.
  • The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.
  • Article 30 of the UNCRPD highlights that persons with disabilities should be able to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities. The UK Government has committed that it will take steps to ensure this can happen.
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