Attitudes, and attitudinal change towards persons with disabilities, is an important area of research as it can potentially enable greater understanding of the constraints that may preclude full participation in society (e.g., Daruwalla & Darcy, 2005; Deal, 2003, 2007). In the realm of sport and recreation mega sporting events have been suggested as a potential catalyst for positive societal change and shifting negative attitudes (e.g., Ritchie, 2000). Much of the event research to date, however, has focused on able bodied sport events, with parasport events being largely overlooked (e.g., Misener et al. 2013). As a result, the impact of major parasport events on attitudinal change towards persons with a disability is assumed by sport practitioners, policy makers, and politicians but not justified by empirical evidence. The current study thus presents a starting point by examining the benefits of hosting mega sport events and in particular focuses on an important event stakeholder group; volunteers (Doherty, 2009). More specifically, the current study addresses volunteer’s perceptions of attitudes towards disability at two major parasport events: the 2014 Commonwealth Games (where parasport was integrated with the able-bodied sport) and the 2015 Pan Am/ParaPan American Games (where parasport was separated from the able-bodied sport). Data were collected at two time points for each event: pre-Games, and post-Games. Results revealed that both events had an impact on volunteer awareness levels of disability and accessibility related issues, as well as positively impacting attitudes towards persons with disability. Interestingly, the integrated events at the Commonwealth Games appeared to impact attitudes to a greater degree than the non-integrated events at the ParaPan Am Games. Implications are discussed pertaining to the impact of an integrated vs. non-integrated major parasport event on disability/accessibility awareness, and attitudes towards disability.
- parasport, disability, events, volunteers, attitudes, awareness, leveraging