The Paralympics

The Paralympics added by Caitlin Padick

Do you know the difference between the Special Olympics and the Paralympics? Prior to reading these articles, I didn't either. The key distinction between the two competitions occurs in examination of whom they allow to compete. The Special Olympics only allows athletes to compete who have been diagnosed with an intellectual disability. As a result over 2.25 million athletes compete world wide for the Special Olympics. While both are International Olympic Committee recognized, only the Special Olympics has been given the official sanction to use the word olympics in its name.

On the other hand, the Paralympics is "the international representative organization of elite sports for athletes with disabilities (primarily physical disabilities". Therein lies the distinction. The International Paralympic Committee accepts all disabled athletes, regardless of their disability, as long as they can compete on the elite level. To this end the Paralympics offers competition under five disability-specific international sports federations and a sixth group that is represented by the INAS-FID or the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability. While the Special Olympics allows all athletes to participate and accordingly groups them based on ability level, the Paralympics only accepts those athletes that meet qualifying standards.

Paralympic athletes are grouped or classified by disability. The Paralympic Committee recognizes six categories of disabilities: amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries, intellectual disability and a group that includes all those that do not fit into the aforementioned groups. The Paralympic Games are held in the same years, both Winter and Summer Games, as the Olympic Games and due to a 2001 treaty are always held in the same city. Almost every event offered in the Olympic Games is also offered, in some form, in the Paralympic Games.

The difference between the Paralympic Games and the Special Olympics is distinct and salient. Further the implications of such a distinction have reverberations in the disabled community. Which competition is setting a better example, the Special Olympics who accept all ability levels or the Paralympics who accept all disability types?


The Special Olympics:

The International Paralympic Committee: