By Jay Aprea
Through its annual slate of people-to-people exchanges, the Sports Diplomacy Division in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) manages programs that promote access and inclusion for people with disabilities through sports, as well as the positive legacy of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Recently, the division’s Sports Visitor Program collaborated with Embassy Mexico City to host 17 coaches and sports administrators from Mexico for a sports exchange designed to support and strengthen the Paralympic movement. Participants traveled to Colorado Springs, Colo., and Birmingham, Ala., staying at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center and the Lakeshore Foundation, respectively, for a 14-day exchange program. The program included classroom sessions on Paralympic sports and disability and human rights with activities such as wheelchair basketball, power soccer, and handcycling. Participants created action plans to implement upon their return home that will help increase public involvement in adaptive sports across Mexico.
Meanwhile, the 62 international alumni of the Global Sports Mentoring Program: Sport for Community—the ECA flagship professional development exchange on disability rights—have received more than 90 awards and promotions and have engaged nearly 18,000 participants in adaptive sports activities worldwide.
The Sports Diplomacy Division incorporates disability rights across all its exchange programs 365 days a year. Looking ahead, in order to highlight the inclusive values, and the impact and benefits of sport participation for people with disabilities in the U.S. and abroad, the division will continue to work with our embassies and consulates around the world to capitalize on the 30th anniversary of ADA (ADA 30) and the Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games in 2020. Throughout 2020, look for ECA to shine a spotlight on ADA 30 by highlighting a range of its inclusive exchange programs including sports.
Jay Aprea is a program coordinator in the Sports Diplomacy Division.