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What about the social acceptance of disabled athletes in Europe? A Comparative analysis of the Paralympics media coverage in the written press of Germany, England, Spain, Greece and France


During the last two decades, there has been a significant increase in the enrolment of disabled people within the framework of adapted physical activities. Political and institutional actors are making an effort to reflect an idea of equal treatment between the able-body and disabled body. Under this logic, the organizing committee of the recent Olympic and Paralympic Games, Athens 2004 decided that athletes performed in the same stadiums, were hosted in the same Olympic village, under almost the same calendar, and finally it was the same staff that organized both organizations. However is worth questioning this discourse with the different perception of common sense of the people and the intuition that disabled athletes appear rarely in popular media.

Scientific research, on the field of social psychology and sociology of disability, has produced evidence demonstrating that, disability is often associated with sentiments of pity, dependency and inability (Schantz, 2001). People with disabilities are the obje ct of negative social representations, and according the theoretical assumption of Goffman (1963) they undergo a kind of stigmatisation in our society. In one of the few studies that used photograph analysis, Hardin and Hardin (2004) observed that disabled people where depicted as almost always needing help assistance to participate in sports, reinforcing, that way, a stigmatised image of disabled people as dependant people.

However, the studies that up to now have carried out photograph analysis present a lack of a clear methodological tool; most of the analysis is quite naive rather than based in a valid recording instrument. The completion of this study will come to fill this methodological gap through the development of a valid and reliable tool, based in the theory of the semiology of images. The resulting recording instrument will enable us to study the stigmatisation hypothesis

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