While sport has value in everyone's life, it is even more important in the life of a person with a disability. This is because of sport's rehabilitative influence, and the fact that it is a means to integrate the person into society. Furthermore, sport teaches independence. Nowadays, people with disabilities participate in high performance as well as in competitive and recreational sport.
Sport for athletes with a disability has existed for more than 100 years. In the 18th and 19th Century contributions were made which proved that sport activities were very important for the re-education and rehabilitation of persons with a disability. After World War I, physiotherapy and sports medicine became as important as orthopedic and internal surgery.
Sports clubs for deaf were already in existence in 1888 in Berlin. The world organization of sport for the deaf -CISS- was founded in 1922. Nevertheless, the deaf were never involved with other disabilities and organized, and still organize, their own world games; the Silent Games.
Sport for persons with a physical disability was introduced after World War ll, with its large number of injured servicemen, -women and civilians. In researching new methods to minimize the consequences of their immobility, it provided a new and great possibility for reviving the idea of sport as a way of treatment and rehabilitation.
In 1944 Dr. Ludwig Guttmann opened, at the request of the British Government, a spinal injuries center at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital. A new approach introduced sport as a paramount part of the total rehabilitation of persons with a disability. Rehabilitation sport evolved rather quickly to recreational sport and the next step of competitive sport was only a matter of some years.
On July 28th 1948, the day of the Opening Ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games in London, the Stoke Mandeville Games were founded and the first competition for wheelchair athletes was organized. In 1952, Dutch ex-servicemen joined the movement and founded the International Stoke Mandeville Games Committee (ISMGF). In 1960, under the aegis of the World Federation for Ex-servicemen, an International Working Group Sport for Disabled was set up to study the problems of sport for persons with a disability. It resulted in the creation, in 1964, of an international sport federation called ISOD: International Sport Organization for the Disabled.
ISOD offered opportunities for those athletes who could not affiliate to ISMGF: blind, amputees, persons with cerebral palsy and paraplegics At the start, 16 countries were affiliated to ISOD and the organization pushed very hard to include blind and amputee athletes into the 1976 Paralympics in Toronto and persons with cerebral palsy in 1980 in Arnhem. Its aim was to embrace all disabilities in the future and to act as a co-ordinating committee. Nevertheless, other disability-orientated international organizations such as CP-ISRA and IBSA were founded in 1978 and 1980.
The four international organizations experienced the need of co-ordinating the games. So they created the "International Co-ordinating Committee Sports for the Disabled in the World"(ICC) in 1982. The ICC was originally composed of the four presidents of CP-ISRA, IBSA, ISMGF and ISOD, the general secretaries and one additional member (in the beginning it was the vice-president, and later on the technical officer). CISS and INAS-FMH joined in 1986, but the deaf still maintained their own organization. However, the member nations demanded more national and regional representation in the organization. This finally led to the foundation of a new, democratically organized institution, the International Paralympic Committee, in 1989. Until today the IPC is the only international multi-disability sports organization in the world.