Designing For Girls With Disabilities

When developing your sport programme, actively recruit girls with physical, sensorial and other disabilities and design the programme with their needs and unique skills in mind. Be aware that, due to religious and cultural biases, many families still hide their disabled children and specifically girls with disabilities. Girls with disabilities are often regarded as second class and a burden to their family. Any investment in girls with disabilities could be undermined by members of a community who would prefer investment in children who are not disabled. Make contact with the mother first, listening to her stories and issues, and gently persuade her into bringing her disabled daughter to your sport events.


Regardless of how many girls with disabilities you have, make sure they can be physically included in the games by providing them with suitable infrastructure and sporting equipment within realistic and financial parameters. If your girls are interested in road racing, but wheelchairs are not available or of poor quality, look for sport activities that match equipment and abilities.

Coaching Sensitivity

Most importantly, seek the right teachers with skills and creativity to teach girls who are disabled, or take courses  to learn how to accommodate girls with disabilities within your programme. Look for the abilities of the girls, not their disabilities, to see the opportunities for them within your sport activity. If you have a large enough group of girls with disabilities, consider creating a group just for them, where they can share and compete against girls with similar abilities and experiences. When working with girls with disabilities, be flexible, creative, patient and enthusiastic.


If you work with deaf or girls who are hearing impaired, learn basic Sign Language for the first communication and include Sign Language interpreters into your courses. You will also need to include this in your financial plan.


You will also need to address how to transport girls with certain disabilities. In many countries, special transportation is not available, too costly or poorly organized. Build this into your program design, and consider programmes that can be offered close to the girls with disabilities (e.g., their schools or institutes).

Peer Support

In addition to considering how your programme will accommodate girls with disabilities, it is also very important to educate girls without disabilities. Peer support is critical to creating an open and encouraging environment for all participants. Help all participants broaden their perspectives about who can play sport. Allow them to ask questions. Teach the girls without disabilities to be the strongest advocates for the participation of those with physical, sensorial or mental challenges.

Role Models

Look for role models. Nearly all countries have Paralympic athletes. Invite them to your training to have girls with and without disabilities experience what can be achieved in spite of disabilities. Work with disabled women trainers if they are available or adult disabled women as coaches or supporters of your program. Seek support of the local or national disabled persons’ organisations, preferably disabled women’s organisations.

Their Right

Make girls with disabilities, their parents and caretakers aware that participation in sport and physical activities is their right (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) and that it can enhance their health, their lives and their abilities.