Western University kinesiology professor, Laura Misener, took to the stage Sept. 23 at the International Paralympic Committee’s VISTA Conference in Toronto.
As a keynote speaker, Misener discussed some of her research, which focuses the societal influences surrounding disability sport — influences often removed from the playing field itself.
The conference, which has been held eight times since its inception in 1993, attracted over 300 researchers from around the world. As one of the premier disability sport science events in the world, 41 countries were represented at the four-day event. According to IPC president Andrew Parsons, this year’s VISTA Conference was the largest yet.
Misener’s address provided a fresh perspective on an event that’s generally more focused on physiology and medicine than social implications. She spoke about some of the challenges in disability sport that aren’t strictly physical.
According to Misener, the Paralympic Games are typically aimed at advancing societal understanding of disabilities and improving accessibility through new infrastructure and a more positive local attitudes. That said, most of the research into parasport revolves around technological advances and athlete classification in various levels of competition. Misener’s work, though, provides more opportunity to be more critical of something like the Paralympic Games.
“Rather than just thinking that, if you host an event, all these wonderful things are going to happen, everybody’s going to have a better attitude. We’re going to feel better about disability sport — we actually need to be doing something strategic to create those outcomes,” said Misener.
Through her involvement with an IPC social impact committee, Misener has done research involving several large-scale sporting events, including the Rio De Janeiro 2016…