Examining parasport events through the lens of critical disability studies

Laura Misener, David McGillivray, Gayle McPherson, David Legg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


It has been generally understood that parasport (disability sport) events aim to alter perceptions towards disability and change attitudes about the potential of disability sport. However, given the complexity of understanding attitudes, perceptions, and awareness, it is necessary to employ multiple overlapping methods to critically examine the various social, economic, and infrastructural arrangements that affect accessibility, mobility, and access to resources. Moreover, event researchers often focus on the here and now rather than assess the longer-term impact or legacy on a range of stakeholders. From this perspective, mixing qualitative ethnographic approaches and quantitative statistical measures offers a way to interrogate social values, institutional priorities, and political will for social change, over a longer time period.
In this chapter, we discuss the complexity of such an approach from our work examining large-scale sporting events and parasport legacies. Our cases are the 2014 Commonwealth Games (Glasgow, Scotland) and the 2015 Pan/Para-pan American Games (Toronto, Ontario, Canada). These events were chosen due to their similarity in size and scale, and because they represent unique cases regarding integrated (Commonwealth Games) and non-integrated (Pan/Para-pan American Games) events. Additionally, each of the cities set to host the respective Games has established specific objectives in relation to increasing accessibility and advancing social inclusion in the host region for persons with a disability. For each case, we have employed exploratory multiple case study designs using ethnographic interviews, document analyses, media analyses, and direct observations, all informed by the lived experiences of persons with disability. In this chapter, we discuss the nuances of a mixed methods approach with particular focus on the role of critical disability theory that challenges ableist assumptions often embedded in social research designs. We pay careful attention to the intricacies and peculiarities of such a complex approach with the aim of storying the research experience and the research process in order to challenge researchers to see the social value in the complexity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Event Studies
Subtitle of host publicationApproaches to Research
EditorsIan R. Lamond, Louise Platt
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan UK
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-52386-0
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-52384-6
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2016

Publication series

NameLeisure Studies in a Global Era
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan UK


  • Disability
  • critical disability studies
  • parasport
  • mega sports events


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