Rio de Janeiro Games: Should the bidding criteria change?

By Ola Abu Al Ghaib 07 September 2016

A Paralympic track and field athlete. Photo by: obaxterlovo / CC BY-NC-ND

Along with prestige, cities are drawn to hosting the Olympics and Paralympics for their potential to build job creation and swell tourist numbers. Holding the twin Summer Games may be an expensive process, but candidates believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs if successful. Cities as diverse as Rome, Los Angeles, Budapest and Paris have all thrown their hat into the ring for the next Games up for grabs, 2024.

Could this competitive energy be harnessed for greater, broader good than it is currently? One way to do so would be to require a commitment to supporting individuals with disabilities. The last minute problems with the ongoing Paralympics imply a half-hearted commitment to doing so.

These are the current criteria that cities are expected to meet when bidding:
• Availability of enough space to host
• Capacity to generate new stadiums and venues
• Ability to provide necessary hotel accommodation
• Availability of adequate transport services
• Demonstrable ability to cope with the high level of security needed
• Convince citizens that this is cost effective for them and the country
• Capacity to generate and maintain a highly positive media exposure

Within the above, there is no mention of accessibility requirements, despite that fact that the Paralympics have been running in parallel to the Olympics since 1992.

The cyclical link between poverty and disability, as well as enduring exclusion of persons with disabilities and their families, can be overcome with fair access to work. We need to join efforts to create global mechanisms to encourage countries to take this up as a policy priority. Selection criteria for the Games could be an interesting opportunity to consider.

Some of the points contained with the United Nations convention on rights of persons with disabilities could easily be adopted into the bidding criteria:
• Recognizing the right of persons with disabilities to work on an equal basis with others within national legal frameworks
• Prohibiting all forms of discrimination in the workforce, calling on employers to make reasonable accommodation adjustments for persons with disabilities in the workplace, promoting opportunities for persons with disabilities to be self-employed and facilitating their access to vocational and technical training
• Considering the additional costs associated with disability when defining wages and employment support systems
• Providing different forms of opportunity, such as micro-finance schemes, Person-centred Supported-employment schemes, Support to Setting up a business, etc.  

How can governments implement policy?

In order to effectively legislate against discrimination, disability first needs to be afforded a legal definition. Cultural attitudes are as pivotal as legislation, but it is generally accepted that deterrents must also be prescribed to disincentivize employers from showing prejudice toward potential or existing employees with disabilities.

In Brazil’s case, new legislation passed last year established a custodial punishment of one to three years for those who discriminate against persons with disabilities. The Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Act, signed off by recently impeached President Dilma Roussef in 2015, goes some way toward meeting the rest of the criteria of — and values behind — the U.N. convention.

The law creates an allowance (auxílio-inclusão) to be paid to people with moderate to severe disabilities who enter the labor market; reserves 10 percent of the slots available in the selection process for courses of higher education for the disabled; and creates an inclusion database (cadastro de inclusão) to enable the identification and characterization of persons with disabilities and the barriers that prevent the enforcement of their rights.

Brazil has recognized that this is not just about supporting persons with disabilities keen and able to work to improve their standard of living; it is in the nation’s own economic interests. A greater labor force improves the economic health of the country.

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About the author

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Ola Abu Al Ghaib

Ola Abu Al Ghaib is the global head of influencing, impact and learning at Leonard Cheshire Disability. A global alliance of Leonard Cheshire charities works to improve the lives of persons with disabilities in 54 countries. Leonard Cheshire’s ambitious five-year international strategy aims to enrich lives and promote independence for more than 100,000 people.


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