Preoccupied with Able-Bodiedness? An Analysis of the British Media Coverage of the 2000 Paralympic Games

in Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly
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  • 1 Staffordshire University, UK
  • | 2 Chester College of Higher Education, UK
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This study analyzed British newspaper coverage of the 2000 Sydney Paralympics. Sixty-two articles from 4 British newspapers were examined for the terminology used to describe athletes’ disabilities and the language and images used to portray athletes’ performances. The results suggest a tendency to convey the achievements of Paralympic athletes using medicalized descriptions of disability and to compare them to athletes without disabilities. Photographic coverage tended to hide the athletes’ impairments, and female athletes were less likely to be photographed in active poses. Although coverage emphasized the sporting achievement of athletes with disabilities by comparing them to Olympic athletes and by deemphasizing disability, it may have inadvertently reinforced stereotypical perceptions of disability and reaffirmed a preoccupation with able-bodiedness.

Nigel Thomas is with Sport, Health and Exercise, School of Health, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom, ST4 2DF. E-mail: Andrew Smith is with Physical Education and Sports Science, Chester College of Higher Education, Chester UK CH1 4BJ. E-mail:

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