An historical analysis of disability sport policy in Aotearoa New Zealand

The role of central government in disability sport in Aotearoa New Zealand has never been reviewed in depth. In this paper, drawing on archival data we outline the evolution of disability sport policy, highlighting key initiatives of government sport agencies from 1937 to the contemporary disability sport policy landscape. Evolving with the rise of the social model of disability, these policies are considered a necessary response to an historical invisibility of disabled people in sport. We highlight a landscape that is complicated by significant diffusion of power between government and ‘not-for-profit’ organisations responsible for the provision of sport for disabled people. Within this contested landscape and with the historical weight of policy, disabled people in NZ continue to report exclusion, marginalisation and lower levels of participation, suggesting a disconnect between policy and its enactment. We introduce the concept of ‘enlightened ableism’ to illustrate that while progressive ideals are embedded in disability policy, there are still challenges for achieving true inclusive practice. Furthermore, lessons learned from previous policy failures suggest that while the future of disability sport in NZ looks well placed to facilitate increased participation, it is worth questioning the extent to which ableism is structured into the fabric of disability sport.
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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics on 14 Mar 2022, available at http://wwww.tandfonline. com/10.1080/19406940.2022.2052147.