Sport works to improve the inclusion and well being of persons with disabilities by changing what people with disabilities think and feel about themselves. The annual big five sports day, held in association with the Gauteng Department of Health and the five government rehabilitation hospitals in the province, once again celebrated ability for all.

Patients with disabilities from South Rand Rehabilitation, Natalspruit hospital, Edenvale hospital, Tshwane Rehabilitation centre and Dr. George Mukhari hospital, enjoyed a fun-filled day of sport at the event held at Wits Education Campus in Parktown. Big sponsors were Biogen Sports Nutrition and PNA.

Various sporting codes such as wheelchair basketball, indoor soccer, duster hockey, and balloon volleyball were on offer.

The Gauteng Government is committed to promoting sport in the disability sector. Elma Burger, Rehabilitation Directorate for the Gauteng Department of Health says one often hears only the negative about service delivery in the public sector, but the big five sports day is an opportunity to do something great with a very small budget. “We rely hugely on sponsors to make this event possible. It’s a significant event as it clearly shows team spirit within these medical units. It always amazes me to see how loyal the patients are to their hospitals. There will always be a hospital going home angry, because they think they got cheated. Patients experience an absolute sense of belonging!”

The event promoted the capabilities of persons with disabilities and the importance of ensuring their full participation in society. Kenepe Matlhabegoane of Dr. George Mukhari Hospital, from Mabopani, enjoyed competing in the different games. “This day is awesome! We get to exercise and have fun and also get to know other people.”

According to Alex Jandrell, Occupational Therapist at South Rand Rehab, the aim of the event was to provide an opportunity for patients with disabilities to have fun. “It’s important to constantly remind these patients that the world does not end once one becomes a person with a disability.”

The use of patients with disabilities can be a powerful means of creating positive change in public perception.