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Fonds Gehandicaptensport: Making Sports & its Benefits Accessible to People with Disabilities

Beyond Sport X Under Armour Participant Spotlight

October 27, 2023 

With the expansion of our #SportForSocialChange retail donation campaign in partnership with Under Armour to Austria, the Netherlands and Portugal, we’re spotlighting the participating charities that are using sport to inspire and teach valuable lessons to youth. Today, meet Fonds Gehandicaptensport, which is working to make sports and exercise accessible to people with disabilities in the Netherlands. 

In 2021, only 47% of Dutch people aged four and older reached recommended guidelines on physical activity. Children aged four to 11 were most likely to meet the standard, however, those aged 12 to 17 fell short. Additionally, groups such as those with chronic health conditions and physical disabilities, people with lower household incomes and those from certain immigrant backgrounds were found to be less physically active.

Specifically relating to people with disabilities, a lack of motivation, energy, sports and information about sports possibilities have been reported as personal barriers to sports participation in the country, while environmental barriers include access to transportation and sports facilities as well as costs.

Fonds Gehandicaptensport 

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Fonds Gehandicaptensport (Disabled Sports Foundation) believes that sport belongs to everyone. By promoting inclusive activities, the organisation informs and inspires people to discover new experiences and fulfil their potential through sport. Believing that sport has numerous benefits, its goal is to make sports accessible, especially for those that need it the most. 

The organisation aligns to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goals 3: Good Health and Wellbeing, 10: Reduced Inequalities and 17: Partnerships for the Goals. In order to increase sports participation among people with disabilities to the same level as people without disabilities, Fonds works to ensure an equal playing field for all. By addressing common societal barriers and empowering people to be active, the organisation is contributing to overall healthier lifestyles and improved wellbeing across the country. 

There are 1.7 million people with a moderate to severe disability in the Netherlands. The organisation states that a third are active in sports, a third would like to, but don’t yet exercise and a third never want to exercise. Fonds Gehandicaptensport focuses on the large group of people with disabilities who want to partake in sports but are unable to do so.

The cost of adaptive sports equipment for disabled people is much higher in the country, which results in far fewer sports opportunities for those with disabilities and lower sports participation rates. A report commissioned by Fonds Gehandicaptensport and NOC*NSF ('Nederlands Olympisch Comité*Nederlandse Sport Federatie) shows that sports participation is at 48% for people with disabilities in the country, compared to 61% for non-disabled people. 

We spoke to Team Partnerships member, Thijs van den End, who shared that the top challenges facing the youth it serves are accessibility and inclusivity, financial constraints and the lack of adapted sports offerings. “Not all sports facilities and sports clubs are designed with the specific needs of children with disabilities in mind. Physical barriers, such as inaccessible buildings, sports fields and playgrounds can prevent these children from accessing sports facilities. Additionally, social and mental barriers, such as a lack of understanding or lower self-confidence can exclude children with disabilities from participation.” 

“The costs associated with sports participation, such as sport aids, adapted equipment and travel expenses can be a significant barrier for children with disabilities and their families. This usually creates more financial stress for families dealing with medical expenses already. Also, not all sports clubs offer adapted sports programs and the availability of coaches and trainers with knowledge of adapted sports is limited.” 

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To address access and location challenges, Fonds Gehandicaptensport created its activities finder tool, Uniek Sporten (Unique Sports), to help people with disabilities find local sporting facilities, borrow equipment, get advice and more. The platform was founded by wheelchair hockey athlete Arjo Wijnhorst and was first established in 2012 for the Arnhem region. Following national interest in the platform and the potential to break down barriers throughout the country, Fonds Gehandicaptensport took the platform under its wing in 2016. Uniek Sporten has since evolved into a nationwide sports finder tool, with a vision for everyone in the Netherlands with a disability to be able to find a sporting activity.

The platform includes over 4000 associations, clubs and sports providers. Each municipality has its own sports coaches who serve as local points of contact based on the organisation’s belief that personalized support can only be offered at the grassroots level. Additional services continue to be developed, such as a home sports app with adapted exercises, a crowdfunding platform for sports clubs, a lending service for sports aid equipment and financial support when purchasing personal aids such as sports wheelchairs, blades (leg prosthesis) or handbikes. Last year, the platform provided 550 people with disabilities with adaptive equipment such as wheelchairs and prosthetics. 

Fonds Gehandicaptensport also provides the (S)Cool on Wheels Uniek program for youth aged 10 to 15 in the special education sector. The program helps implement clinics at schools where students can experience what it's like to be included on teams through wheelchair basketball and other adaptive sports. The clinics intend to foster inclusivity and understanding. Last year, the program helped run more than 300 clinics in regular education. Starting this school year, it aims to make the program accessible to different types of special education.

With the funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour campaign and seed funding provided by the retailer, Fonds Gehandicaptensport will expand its (S)Cool on Wheels Uniek program to different regions and introduce special education schools throughout the Netherlands to the unique concept. “Our aim is to lead the children towards sports participation at sports clubs. This will give them more self-esteem and better health and well-being,” said van den End. 

Learn more about the incredible organisations we're working to support in the UK and Europe HERE. If you live in the Netherlands, please consider visiting your local Under Armour store to support #SportforSocialChange!


Jonge levens transformeren door sport