INCLUSIVE education for children with special needs is a much-talked about topic. Any initiative that promotes inclusive education is welcome.
We also wish to see this goal extended beyond classrooms into everyday activities, such as sports.
Inclusive sports can be carried out more often to benefit the able-bodied and disabled.
We can save a lot of money by organising an event for all.
We can have the same volunteers at the same event and at the same time.
In this regard, we are proud to have been the team officials and swimmers at Sukan Sarawak last month, a sports event that was done in an inclusive way.
Sukan Sarawak (Suksar) aims to identify young athletes to represent the state in national and international events. It involves 14 standard events and four para events.
We salute the organiser’s farsightedness and courage to treat all athletes equally during the preparation and throughout the competition.
It is a great achievement and a big step forward in building an inclusive society in the state.
In Sibu, swimmers with or without disabilities trained at the same pool, sometimes under the same coach.
For the first time, we saw athletes taking part in para events receiving the same treatment and hospitality.
Everyone was given the same number of sportswear with the same design, and everyone stayed at the same hotel.
Upon arrival in Kuching, all
athletes checked into Universiti Malaysia Sarawak quarters and stayed in similar accommodation
and ate the same meals.
For the opening and closing ceremonies, it was pleasing to witness para athletes grouped under the same zone flag, displaying the full spirit of inclusion.
At the pool, swimmers taking part in para events sat next to us at the observation area, cheering for our swimmers.
People who anticipated problems with the inclusiveness approach or were concerned that it would lower the standard of the competition must have been surprised.
Another highlight of the event was the medals, designed in Iban shield-style, with the name of the event and cultural carvings on it.
We were glad that every winner received this medal. However, there are ways to improve.
Although the organisers did a fantastic job on inclusiveness, they could have built more ramps, wider passages and obstacle-free access.
In addition, there should be a way to ensure floors are non-slippery. Also, the quality of announcements can be improved.
If we are going to include athletes with hearing and visual impairments, we need to improve communication.
Volunteers need to be briefed, and even trained, on the needs of individuals with disabilities and the ways of helping them.
As team officials and swimmers, we applaud the effort of the organisers to run this event inclusively for all athletes.
We congratulate organising chairman Datuk Snowdan Lawan, secretary Dr Ong Kong Swee, committee members and volunteers for a job well done.
We hope that future sports events in the state, or the nation, are organised with inclusiveness in mind.
We hope Sukan Malaysia in Perak this year and other sports authorities can emulate Sarawak.
Toh Aw Zien,
Sukan Sarawak gold medallist in 50m and 100m backstroke events, and student at Woodland International School, Sibu, Sarawak
Professor Dr Toh Teck Hock,
Vice-president, National Early Childhood Intervention Council, and consultant paediatrician