Catherine Carty talks about the establishment of the UNESCO Chair “Transforming the lives of people with disabilities through physical education, sport fitness and recreation” at the IT Tralee.
ICSSPE: What is the purpose of the UNESCO Chair for inclusive physical education, sport, recreation and fitness?
Carty: The purpose of the Chair is to use policy change, research, education and training to facilitate the creation of a more inclusive society using physical education, sport, recreation and fitness as conduits towards the attainment of social justice. Promoting access to and standards for lifelong and life-wide participation pathways for all people is central to our goal. We will not achieve all the goals on our own but rather through the collaborative engagement of the many other professionals via global collaboration in a spirit of peer cooperation. It is through the sharing of knowledge, practice and resources how we can advance towards our collective goals in a more efficient and effective way.
In this sense an agreement was signed between UNESCO and the Institute of Technology Tralee concerning the establishment of the UNESCO Chair on “Transforming the lives of people with disabilities through physical education, sport fitness and recreation” on 3rd May 2013. It was signed by the UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova and the President of the Institute, Oliver Murphy. The agreement sets out the following articles:
“Article 1 – The Institute shall, in cooperation with UNESCO, establish a UNESCO Chair on Transforming the Lives of People with Disabilities through Physical Education, Sport, Fitness and Recreation at the Institute of Technology Tralee.”
“Article 2 – The purpose of the Chair shall be to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation in the fields of inclusive physical education, adapted physical activity, sports and fitness for social inclusion of people with disabilities. It will facilitate collaboration between high-level, internationally recognized researchers and teaching staff of the Institute and other institutions in Ireland and elsewhere in Europe & North America, as well as in Africa, the Arab States region, and Latin America and the Caribbean.”
The Chair is not funded by UNESCO, IT Tralee has invested exclusively in the Chair to date and are committed to advancing its goals. As activities and research advance, funding will be sought from multiple sources including the EU, national and international grant schemes, philanthropic donation, and partnership with companies through corporate social responsibility mechanisms. It is also notable that the partnership is fluid and that it will evolve depending upon specific project needs and collaborations.
ICSSPE: Why do you think that IT Tralee was awarded the Chair?
Carty: The Institute of Technology Tralee has transformed the landscape in Ireland in terms of capacity building and empowerment to facilitate the inclusion of people with disability in physical education, sport, fitness and recreation. Through education, training, research, policy change and changes in practice we have created careers in the fields of adapted physical activity that enable professionals to work with disability service providers, individuals with disabilties, their families and communities to make change happen. Some of the achievements that are testament to our specialism have been:
– a unique disability service led APA programme at undergraduate level;
– the recently launched MA programme in APA Leadership commencing January 2014;
– the establishment of CARA – the National Centre for APA at ITTralee;
– the creation of 22 Sports Inclusion Development Officer (SIDO) posts nationally;
– the hosting of the international EUCAPA Conference in 2012;
– the invitation by UNESCO in 2011 to present on inclusion at the Expert Symposium of Quality Physical Education
– initiating and hosting four national APA conferences (2003, 2005, 2008, 2011) and CAMPABILITIES Ireland in 2010 , 2011, 2012.
IT Tralee recognises that we are a small part of a bigger picture but we are passionately driven to make a difference. We recognise the power of positive partnerships in achieving goals and are willing to engage.
ICSSPE: How has IT Tralee benefited from this Chair?
Carty: The Chair is in its infancy in terms of development but the establishment of the Chair has opened doors at the national level with a persepctive of influencing policies. It has also enabled us to participate at UNESCO led events such as the Quality Physical Education forum or MINEPS V. Having a UNESCO Chair is something IT Tralee is both very proud of and committed to. The establishment of the Chair adds both credibility and opportunity to our work in this field. We will endeavour to mobilise that credibility in a positive way with the inclusion of people with disabilities remaining at the core of our focus. Establishing the required consortium to mobilise our research and educational agendas will be of benefit to all stakeholders involved. The fact that UNESCO has established a Chair in this area can be utilised to highlight to policymakers the importance UNESCO places on the associated agenda thereby facilitating investment in not just inclusion activities but also across quality physical education, sport, recreation and fitness.
ICSSPE: What are your current projects?
Carty: The European project entitled European Inclusive Physical Education Training (EIPET) was developed in 2009 and is now being updated. The EIPET resource facilitated teacher training institutions to educate pre- and in-service teachers in relation to the inclusion of people with disabilities into sport and physical exercise programmes. The resource and programme will be made available to Education providers across the globe. In addition, we ran CAMPABILITIES Ireland in 2010, 2011, 2012 and will continue to do so. We are the first centre outside of the United States to do so. Campabilities is a residential camp for visually impaired children set up by Lauren Liberman in New York. We also run Surf to Heal Kerry, a surfing camp for Children with autism spectrum disorders. In November 2013 we will launch the European Fitness Inclusion Training for Work (EFITW) project.
The UNESCO Chair in partnership with EOSE, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Skillsactive UK, Palacky University and Momentum BD Ltd. will refine and transfer resources for VET trainers designed to equip fitness professionals with sufficient knowledge, competence and skill to work with people with disabilities in real work environments. The project draws together a Sector Skills Alliance and Knowledge Alliance to maximise the impact and to ensure responsiveness to labour market needs.
The Chair is open to collaborative research on inclusion of people with disabilities in physical education, sport, recreation and fitness in line with international policies addressing social needs.
ICSSPE: What is the importance of research and education?
Carty: As the outlining of our earlier work shows the impact of education and research are far reaching. Research is essential to ensure our work is based upon a strong evidence base, to define needs, and to ensure education is necessary to equip future professionals with the knowledge, competence and skills to work competently with people with disabilities in inclusive and segregated settings. Research should inform evidence based practice in all our work including the design of context appropriate and culturally appropriate educational resources.