National approaches to promote sports and physical activity in adults with disabilities: examples from the Netherlands and Canada

Disabil Rehabil. 2019 May;41(10):1217-1226. doi: 10.1080/09638288.2017.1423402. Epub 2018 Jan 15.


Purpose: This study described how the Dutch and Canadian governments promote high performance sports, recreational sports, and physical activity (PA) among adults with disabilities on a national level.

Methods: An internet-based study was conducted to identify and select relevant documents and websites containing information about the national approach to promote disability sports and physical activities in the Netherlands and Canada.

Results: Both governments promote high performance sports in similar ways, but use different strategies to promote recreational sports and physical activities. The Dutch approach is characterized by using time-limited programs focusing on enhancement of sports infrastructure and inter-sector collaboration in which municipalities have key roles. The Canadian government promotes recreational sports in disabled populations by supporting programs via bilateral agreements with provinces and territories. Furthermore, the level of integration of disability sports into mainstream sports differs between countries.

Conclusions: The findings of this study may inspire policy makers from different countries to learn from one another's policies in order to optimize national approaches to promote disability sports and PA on all levels. Implications for rehabilitation It is recommended for policy makers of national governments to develop and implement policy programs that promote sports and physical activities among people with disabilities because of its potential impact on functioning, participation, quality of life, and health. Insight into national approaches to promote sport and physical activities is relevant for rehabilitation practice to understand ongoing opportunities for people with disabilities to stay physically active after rehabilitation through participation in home and/or community-based sport and physical activities. It seems worthwhile to integrate activities to promote sport and physical activities in rehabilitation in such a way that it fits with the current governmental approach. It is recommended to set up international collaborations to develop and share knowledge about effective and sustainable national approaches to promote sports and physical activities among people with disabilities.

Keywords: Active lifestyle; adapted sports; health promotion; people with disabilities; policy; rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Performance
  • Canada
  • Disabled Persons* / psychology
  • Disabled Persons* / rehabilitation
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Government Regulation
  • Health Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Health Promotion* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Promotion* / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Netherlands
  • Quality of Life
  • Sports for Persons with Disabilities* / psychology
  • Sports for Persons with Disabilities* / statistics & numerical data