Jeevandhara Rehabilitation Research Institute, located in Bareilly Uttar Pradesh is an institute of Special Education, early intervention and rehabilitation studies. Its strength currently is approx. 200 students guided by a faculty of approx. 25 including admin, teachers, special educators, Coaches etc.
SNF (Stavros Niarchos Foundation) made Unified Sports a curriculum here by modifying the sports field and the environment consequently with regularised inclusive activities. Unified sports did take place earlier, but was rather erratic. Most of the time traditional sports were carried out and with limited resources in small grounds. The athletes competed within themselves, enjoying sports and each other’s company. However, the drive to push their limits and scale up performance was restricted. In 2018, the scene began to change. Unified Sports became regular. The institute saw increased engagements of Persons without Intellectual Disability with those with. Sports combined teams which focussed on achieving goals, on winning together! Differences in carrying out sporting tasks were prioritised over all other differences. The continuous exposure to unified/inclusive sports has changed the way that the stakeholders used to think and plan about sports.
Now no sports event is complete without unified sports. Most of the events are now taking place in mainstream schools without much request to provide ground and facilities, etc. The engagement of neighbouring local schools /colleges particularly three schools and one college are remarkable. With the most engaging school being the ‘Alma Mater Public school. The school’s annual calendar of events now has a permanent event, i.e., ‘Annual Unified Sports Competition’ which is planned in consultation with neighbouring local schools. The school is undertaking more practices than earlier. This has significantly influenced the transaction of curriculum. Parents of the students without ID are happy to see the children accept each other and enjoy togetherness.
Opportunities have opened whereby many athletes with and without ID interact up-close with each other. They are not forced to do so, but they do it meaningfully and naturally. So much like Honey and Shubham who got a chance to play with each other, a space that led them to shed off any tags. While Honey is an athlete with Downs Syndrome, Shubham is a passionate sportsperson playing multiple sports including Badminton and Football. Playing with Honey has brought him more opportunities to play and has also sensitized him towards differences and their acceptance; Honey in due course has started to bond with Shubham and tries to emulate him in any manner, including raising standards for himself to match up in sports.
In the words of Dr Amitav Mishra, Chairman, Jeevandhara Rehabilitation Research Institute, “The National Education Policy 2020 and the policy of inclusive education in India would bring inclusive sports to centre stage, hence Unified Sports is here to stay continuing to catalyse a unified future. As school practices are changing the time is right to keep reaching out to more and more persons and institutes advocating for Unified Sports”