We live in a changing world in many ways, and one of these evolving characteristics is that humans tend to live longer now. We in Ireland can expect to live into our mid-seventies on average. This can be attributed to scientific and technological developments and our own changing attitudes. Dunning (1993) describes this using Elias' civilising process theory when he explains that society has evened out somewhat with economic growth and the growing power of the lower social strata over the past century or so.
Dunning goes on to explain that as a result of the prevalence of democratic and stable governments and the growth in division of labour, it is the case that people in the more civilised societies of today are taught and expected to exercise more regular, even, stable and comprehensive control over their behaviour and feelings.
This trend is evident in many aspects of society, including the recent advancements in the treatment, perceptions and rights of those with disabilities. If you look back a mere one hundred years to the beginning of the 20th century we find evidence of how people with disabilities were treated as inferior and institutionalised for most if not all of their usually short lives. This was especially the case for those who suffered from a congenital disability such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome.
It wasn't until after World War II that people with disabilities became more prominent. This was partly due to the many soldiers who returned with disabilities from traumatic injuries suffered during combat. This led to the creation of the Stoke Mandeville Centre in England where international wheelchair sports competitions were held for the first time in 1944 (Sherrill, 1998). This initiative started by the father of wheelchair sport, Sir Ludwig Guttman, encouraged people with congenital and other locomotor limitations also to compete in wheelchairs. Sports for the physically disabled moved on at a great pace from there, to where we now see Paralympians compete every four years at incredible standards in their own games following each Olympics. But it was not until 1968 that a similar association was set up for people with mental disabilities. This is when Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded Special Olympics International (SOI), which now has branches in over 130 countries and holds summer and winter games every four years.
The events that brought people with disabilities from the shadows of social acceptance and inclusion, like sports participation, and the civilising process started to gain credence in academic circles. Many fields of study evolved to look at the subject. One such area is therapeutic recreation (TR) which is part of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). In its infancy TR was known as hospital recreation, medical recreation and recreation therapy. It finally settled on therapeutic recreation in 1967 when the National Therapeutic Recreation Society was founded...