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Publication Date

Summer 2021

Degree Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Communication Studies


Marie C. Haverfield

Subject Areas

Disability studies


When thinking about the Paralympics, many people may view it as a competitive, empowering event for athletes of all abilities to prove that disability is not a limiting factor for athletic success, but in reality, a huge segment of individuals cannot play the sports currently offered. The existing sports are designed for disabled individuals of higher mobility, namely quadriplegic and paraplegic injuries, rather than individuals facing neuromuscular diseases, which are conditions that accelerate muscle weakness over time. The path to true Paralympic inclusion lies in adaptive sports, such as power soccer, that embrace athletes with neuromuscular conditions. This study employs the theoretical framework of social identity theory (SIT) to assess disability identity and empowerment among adaptive sports players and to draw comparisons of identity and empowerment based on Paralympic inclusion versus exclusion. The study sample included 30 interviews with adaptive sports athletes. Results revealed that adaptive sports players developed disability empowerment as part of their identity regardless of Paralympic inclusion. However, Paralympic inclusion did enhance opportunities to showcase disability ability, positively impacting societal perceptions surrounding ableness and equality among marginalized adaptive sports athletes.