ALLIED

Representation Of People Living With A Disability In Sport

Australians have a great respect and love for sport, however new research reveals that 57% of the population (approximately 11.4 million Australians) agree there is not enough representation of people living with a disability in sport. 

The research, commissioned by Mastercard in partnership with Blind Sports Australia (BSA), revealed seven in ten Australians (70%) agree the sports industry has made progress to be more diverse, however there is still work to be done to ensure everyone feels like they belong.

Australians living with a disability agree it’s important for people of all abilities to be included (94%) in sport, however more than three-quarters (77%) report they’ve faced obstacles, such as travel, lack of information and lack of specialist equipment, to participate. Additionally, over 1 in 5 (22%) report concerns about feeling excluded and a further 52% don’t know any athletes with their disability being represented.

Australians living with a disability think it is important to have role models[2], and tennis is among one of the sports that players with a disability feel caters specifically to their needs[3].

SPOTLIGHTING BLIND AND LOW VISION TENNIS

As the official payment partner of Australian Open 2023, and one of the world’s top 5 businesses on DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity[4][5], Mastercard is championing inclusivity on and off the court by showcasing the game in a new light.

Image: Mastercard Ambassador and former world No.8 singles tennis player Alicia Molik took to the court wearing simulation glasses – playing with two blind and low vision (BLV) tennis champions – to simulate the game from the perspective of a person living with a vision impairment.

Showcasing the game in a new light, Mastercard Ambassador Alicia Molik took to the court with Courtney Webeck (Blind & Low Vision Australian B2 Champion[6]) and Mick Leigh (Blind & Low Vision Australian B3 Champion[7]) wearing blackout simulation glasses – simulating the game from the perspective of a person living with a vision impairment. 

“You get to push yourself in many ways when playing tennis, as it’s a physically, mentally and technically a challenging sport. B2 vision impaired players rely on the bounce to know where the ball is. I feel on top of the world when I hit a good shot, whether it’s a forehand or backhand, cross court or down the line, but for me tennis means more than winning!” – Courtney Webeck (Blind & Low Vision Australian B2 Champion).

The Priceless experience gave Molik a new-found appreciation for blind and low vision tennis and the need for growth in this code: “Throughout my career, I’ve been tested during matches, but this felt like a totally different ball game. The most challenging part for me, while simulating the lived experiences of a person living with a vision impairment, was picking up the sound when the ball was in flight – it made me feel like I was very incapable of a skill that ordinarily I’d be an expert at.”

With different codes of tennis gaining awareness and traction, Australians living with a disability say it is important for them to have role models represented in sport (57%). Representation is not only key for ensuring people living with a disability feel included, but to help them feel inspired to participate (37%). Beyond this, Australians living with a disability believe education (86%), awareness (76%), and major events (75%) have the power to make people living with a disability feel more included.

Richard Wormald, Division President, Australasia, Mastercard, said: “Mastercard’s research has shown that only one in 10[8] Australians living with a disability believe that sensory disabilities (including vision impairments and hearing loss) are represented – this is far lower than other disabilities. As the official payment partner of Australian Open 2023, Mastercard is championing inclusivity on and off the court, ensuring everyone who is passionate about tennis feels like they belong.

 “With tennis being one of the top three sports for inclusivity[9], the Australian Open is a brilliant event to champion belonging in sport, making it priceless for all.”

To model this, during the AO, Webeck and Leigh will play a match at the National Tennis Centre between opponents within their classification. The Australian Open will celebrate its inaugural All Abilities Day this year (Tue 24 January). To support inclusion at a grassroots level, Mastercard is funding a Blind Sports Australia (BSA) grant to grow blind and low vision tennis across the country.

Matthew Clayton, Chief Executive Officer, Blind Sports Australia said: “We continue to work closely with our state members and Tennis Australia to grow participation in blind and low vision tennis, among other sports, across Australia. Through this grant, and partnership, we aim to support aspiring or potential athletes across all levels to have a swing at tennis. It is only through representation and progress, such a match of blind and low vision during the Australian Open 2023, we’re able to raise awareness for the game and encourage inclusivity for all.”

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