Denise de Siqueira earned her MSc in Architecture & Urbanism at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil where she conducted pioneering empirical research in Brazil on accessible beaches and adaptive surfing. Denise is a human rights activist, an adaptive surfer and a board member of two NGOs in Brazil on adaptive surfing and coastal preservation.
Marcos Bosquetti started and coordinates SandS – Surf and Sustainability Research Group (www.sands.ufsc.br) – the first interdisciplinary group in Brazil that studies the economic, social and environmental impact of the fast-growing surfing tourism on Latin America’s coastlines. Dr. Bosquetti did a post-doctoral placement with the Center for Surf Research at San Diego State University, is an associate professor at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, a member of the International Association of Surfing Academics, seats on the Management Committee of the World Surfing Reserve Guarda do Embaú, in where he is currently leading a Surfonomics Studies, the first in Brazil.
Since the inauguration of the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship in 2015 by the International Surfing Association, the global adaptive surfing community has been growing significantly. In the 2018 edition a record-breaking of 120 total athletes, including 37 women competed in the event representing 26 nations. This event, which takes place annually in La Jolla, California, is a living proof to the world that the blissful experience of sliding on a wave is for everyone. It is set to be a historic landmark in the history of Surfing.
Indeed, leisure in nature is a right for everyone, however the access to beaches and water sports is still a major challenge for people with disabilities, especially in developing countries. The World Health Organization estimates that over a billion people, about 15% of the global population, have some form of disability, making disabled people one of the world’s largest minority groups.
The purpose of this paper, which is based on a pioneering empirical research in Brazil, is to stimulate critical reflection upon accessibility of beaches and social inclusion of people with disabilities through the incorporation of the universal design principles in urban projects and the practice of adaptive surfing. This paper also aims to raise the interest of researchers in cross-cultural studies on accessibility of beaches and adaptive surfing programs as well as in best practices that could inspire initiatives to increase the global access and reach of adaptive surfing.
This paper gives a brief overview of the rights of people with disabilities, the principles of universal design, and the role of social innovation in building an inclusive society, setting the conceptual framework of this qualitative research. It also presents and discusses the results of an MSc thesis in Architecture and Urbanism carried out by a female surfer that became a wheelchair user after a car accident, that is, an insider researcher who tested the accessibility of 15 beaches officially promoted by the government as accessible beaches located in 3 Brazilian states (Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Santa Catarina). The researcher also analyzed the 3 adaptive surfing initiatives considered as successful cases of social innovation (Associação AdaptSurf, Programa Surf Inclusivo, and Associação Surf Sem Fronteiras). These programs started in the last decade by people with disabilities and local NGOs and have been growing and involving communities and governments. These three adaptive surfing initiatives have played a key role in the revelation and preparation of the Brazilian athletes who conquered the podium in all editions of the ISA World Adaptive Surfing Championship.
The conclusion of this research points out the main challenges and opportunities related to the accessibility of beaches and adaptive surfing, highlighting the strategic role of people with disabilities as key stakeholders and agents of change. It also invites to reflection upon the paradigm shift, not only in thought, but also in actions from society, organizations, governments and the global surfing community toward promoting the social inclusion and wellbeing of people with disabilities through surfing.
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