Research partner Jill LeClair at the London 2012 Paralympic Games

An investigation of the impact of multi-platform media coverage of the 2012 London Paralympic Games and the 2015 Toronto Parapan American Games upon perceptions of disability (LONTOR)

Funder

European Commission
FP7 EU Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship

Value to Coventry University

€299,558.40

Project team

Dr Ian Brittain

Partners

Jill LeClair, Canada (Fellow); Ian Brittain (Scientist in Charge)

Duration of project

01/01/2014 - 31/12/2016


Project overview

Fieldwork took place three-years after the London 2012 Paralympic Games and before, during and after the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games. Data was collected in diverse public locations (cafes, government/council offices, libraries, college and universities) and included all ages (with a majority youth) in three boroughs of East London (Greenwich, Newham and Tower Hamlets) over a 3-month period, and in three areas in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) (Etobicoke, Old City, and Whitby) over 4-months. Three different questionnaires were administered face-to-face, tailored to the two cities. Over 720 questionnaires were administered; 183 were completed in the spring before the Toronto 2015 Games, and 275 in the autumn after the Games. 262 questionnaires were also administered in London, UK in 2015 after the 2012 Games. The study included 327 males and 383 females with 10 respondents who answered the question ‘other’ or did not answer the gender question. The questionnaires included both biographical details and questions that explored respondent attitudes. It was explained that the survey was part of an international study, funded by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship of the European Commission. The international nature of the study seemed to generate interest and encourage participation, as only a few people declined. It was explained that frankness was expected as all results were both anonymous and confidential, so no answers or comments could be connected to any individual participant.

From the data collected, a major theme emerging throughout was the complexity and tension within attitudes and issues linked to identity, media, disability and inclusion. In addition, a wealth of diverse data was obtained from the 720 participants that includes information on personal disability, income, the nature of participation in sport and recreation, accessibility, reasons for choice of devices and media platforms and use, support for national sport teams, impact of the Games on neighbourhoods, perceptions and knowledge of disability and activism, sport viewing practices and participation in the Games and finally fairness and performance enhancing drugs. 

Project objectives

The main objectives of the London-Toronto (LONTOR) project were to obtain a better understanding of the nuanced and sometimes conflicting attitudes towards disability and media/technology use in the context of mega-sport events.

  • Sometimes inclusion can be merely tokenism even though the largest minority group in the world is the one billion people with disabilities (WHO, 2015). The disabled are fragmented by different interests that include accessibility issues, income support, age-based or legal rights, carer issues and focuses on medical research, disease-based interests and different priorities for sport and recreation. Genuine inclusion is important so that those with different abilities and diverse bodies can be included in all aspects of society. The research indicates it is important to evaluate what is taking place as new media has made previously non-commercial sport available to a mass audience. Athletes with disabilities, and especially Paralympians, can transform expectations, challenge stereotypes and raise issues about accessibility. However issues related to inclusion are nuanced, sometimes leading to complex and even contradictory attitudes and behaviour.

    It is expected that the results will prove useful to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), National Paralympic Committees and the Lima 2019 Parapan Organizing Committee as the focus for these organisations has been stressing the high performance nature of disability in sport, but what appeals to spectators is the dedication and determination of the athletes in the context of outstanding (seemingly impossible) performances – it is the emotion within the impairment of disability that is so striking. The UK government merged disability rights legislation within its Equality Act passed in 2010. Carla Qualtrough, the new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities in Canada, is currently holding Consultations on Federal Accessibility Legislation across the country, and results from this study will be submitted at the February 8, 2017 meeting in Toronto.

  • Conference Presentations

    Le Clair, J.M., 2016, “Heroes in Giga-Sport Events and Surfing Fieldwork Barriers.” Faculty of Business and Law Annual Conference, Coventry University, UK. 30 June.

    Le Clair, J.M., 2016, “Disability, Social Media Usage and Sport Participation in the Context of Mega-Events: Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games.” Disability Sport: Why Do We ‘Dis’ People’s Abilities? Conference, Coventry University, 27-29 June.

    Le Clair, J.M., 2016, “Sport, Physical Activity & Inclusion Policies: Growth of the Paralympic Games Brand.”, Centre for Business in Society (CBiS) Seminar Series. Faculty of Business and Law, Coventry University, 18 May.

    Le Clair, Jill M., 2015, “National & Cultural Identity & Support for Sport Teams: Toronto 2015 Pan Am & Pan American Games.” Sport & Society Conference. University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. July 30–31.

    Le Clair, Jill M., 2015, “Gaps Between Policy and Practice in the Context of Mega-Sport Events: the London 2012 Paralympic Games and the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games”. (Poster Presentation). Getting it-right/s: Society for Disability Studies, Atlanta, USA. June 11–13.

    Brittain, I., & Le Clair, J.M., 2015, “Discrimination against and within disability communities: implications for sport and life beyond”. Sport & Discrimination Conference. Sunderland University (London Campus), UK. May 1.

    Le Clair, Jill M., 2014, “Changing legacies: disability and gender in sport”. Disability Sport: Changing Values, Changing Perceptions? Conference. Coventry University, Coventry, UK. September 15–17.

    Le Clair, Jill M., 2014, ” Shifting perceptions: disability and gender in media coverage”. Disability Sport: Changing Values, Changing Perceptions? Conference. Coventry University, Coventry, UK. September 15–17, 2014.

    Le Clair, Jill M., 2014, ”Changing legacies for sport managers: disability, gender and Canadian media coverage”. European Association of Sport Management Conference (EASM), Warwick University, Coventry, UK September 9-12.

    Le Clair, Jill M., 2014, “Media, new technologies, branding and sport: methodological challenges”. Social Media & Society 2015 International Conference. Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada. July 28–29.

    Publications

    French, L. & Le Clair, J.M. (2018) “Game-Changer? Social Media, Representations of Disability and the Paralympic Games.” In Brittain, I. & Beacom, A. (Eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Paralympic Studies, Palgrave-MacMillan; UK, p. 99-121.

    Le Clair, J.M. (2017) ““New” Paralympic Heroes: Mainstream Media, Strategic Medals, “Cyborg” Bodies, Protest and Changing Attitudes”. In Price, J. and Kilvington, J. (Eds.), Sport and Discrimination, Routledge; UK, p. 167-182.

    Presentation of Results at the Canadian Consultations on Federal Accessibility Legislation

    Carla Qualtrough, the new Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities in Canada, is currently holding Consultations on Federal Accessibility Legislation across the country, and results from this study will be submitted at the February 8, 2017 meeting in Toronto.

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