Inclusive Design, Humankind and the Paralympic and Olympic Spirit

The 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games are underway, in the same city and same venues as the Olympic Games, and a unified Paralympic and Olympic spirit embraces the two Games. The Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect converge with the Paralympic values of Courage, Determination, Inspiration and Equality. The two Games are embraced by the Olympic Truce, representing peace during both of the Games. The same Organizing Committee serves to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Principles of Olympism in the Olympic Charter reinforce a unified movement. Principle 4 states that the practice of sport is a human right, and Principle 6 upholds the ideal that there shall be no discrimination of any kind. Further, Principle 1 acknowledges that Olympism is a way of life, blending body, will and mind, a philosophy applicable to any athlete with or without a disability. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) also upholds the ideals of dignity, respect and inclusion for all people with and without a disability, and Article 30.5 of the CRPD reinforces the right to sport and recreation for individuals with a disability.

The intersections of Paralympic and Olympic values and spirit are powerful and motivating. There is an opportunity to explore all dimensions of the interaction between the Olympic and Paralympic Games, at the symbolic, linguistic, organizational and infrastructure levels. An inclusive design approach examines event planning so that all stakeholders — athletes, officials, spectators, media, sponsors, etc — have an inclusive experience, from the beginning of the Olympic Games to the conclusion of the Paralympic Games. An inclusion process extending both inside and outside the “bubble” in which the teams, athletes and officials (Olympic and Paralympic) navigate would reframe the need to be inclusive of all potential stakeholders of the Games. One way to perhaps accelerate this transformation is to explore inclusive design through a two Games, one Movement approach?

Co-branding of the Olympic rings and Paralympic agitos from the beginning of the Olympic Games through the end of the Paralympic Games can be manifested in several ways. Could we have a unified medal count? Could the the infrastructure in the host city be designed from the beginning rather than making adjustments only for the Paralympic Games? What about all of the spectators, officials, coaches and even athletes with a disability who are involved with the Olympic Games? What else can be put in place through the lens of inclusive design to unify and connect the two Games?

The Olympic and Paralympic spirit is empowering and has the potential to reinforce the values of Excellence, Friendship, Respect, Courage, Inspiration, Determination and Equality for everyone, for ALL athletes. Perhaps these seven values together could form a new look, a new set of “rings/agitos”, images melded together. There is power to inclusive design that unites rather than divides, excludes or segregates. If the Paralympic and Olympic spirit is about inclusion, humankind, and uniting together, would this indeed be a way forward?

About the Inclusive Sports Initiative:
The Inclusive Sports Initiative is a project of the Institute for Human Centered Design and focuses on Disability in Sport, changing the paradigm, bringing people with disabilities from the margins to become integral members of the sporting community. You can read more and visit the site here:

Eli Wolff, Brown University / University of Illinois
Mary Hums, University of Louisville
David Legg, Mt. Royal University
Ted Fay, SUNY-Cortland
Inclusive Sports Initiative, Institute for Human Centered Design