Inclusive sports at the University of Malaya
by Selina Khoo & Yuhanis Adnan
According to the 2018 Higher Education Statistics by the Ministry of Education, Malaysia, there were 1,874 students with disabilities enrolled in the 20 public universities. The University of Malaya (UM) has approximately 80 students with disabilities enrolled in various undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. The university has several initiatives in place to become in inclusive university, including an Inclusive University Policy which was established in 2014.
The policy has the following four objectives:
*Protect the rights of students with disabilities so they can gain access to learning as well as life on campus
*Empower students with disabilities so they can compete holistically
*Coordinate the management of students with disabilities at all levels of university administration
*Raise awareness of the rights of students with disabilities among the campus community
One way to be inclusive is through sports. This aligns with the UM Inclusive University Policy by allowing students with disabilities to participate fully in campus life. There is currently limited opportunities for students with disabilities to participate in sport or recreational activities on campus. This is due to several reasons including the small number of students with disabilities as well as lack of equipment, coaches and awareness.
One of the initiatives for inclusive sports was a wheelchair tennis programme held at UM Arena on 30 October 2019. This programme was made possible by a UMCares research grant. The programme under Yuhanis Adnan aimed to provide opportunities for adapted sports and recreational activities for students with disabilities as well as to identify talented wheelchair tennis players for competitions.
This effort to introduce wheelchair tennis to students with disabilities, involved various stakeholders, including the University of Malaya Students with Disabilities Association (PERMIUM), the Students with Disabilities Management Unit (UPSOKU), the Sports Facilities and Services Division, Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Disability Sport Research Centre, residential colleges, and Wheelchair Tennis Malaysia (WTM). WTM supported the event by donating six tennis wheelchairs that they no longer used for the programme and the UMCares grant was used to repair the wheelchairs.
The wheelchair tennis programme was attended by about 40 university students and staff as well WTM President Muhd Iqbal Sulaiman, coach Hamzah Abdul, and two national wheelchair tennis players Abu Samah Borhan (currently ranked 48 in the world) and Mohamad Yusshazwan Yusof (currently ranked 73 in the world). Six students with disabilities also joined the programme.
The programme was a great success as the campus community had the opportunity to try out wheelchair tennis for the first time. They not only had step-by-step lessons from coach Hamzah but also got to play with national players. The six tennis wheelchair will be available for the campus community to use by request. For the development of wheelchair tennis on campus, WTM has agreed to provide coaching clinics for potential wheelchair tennis coaches from UM. This step is crucial for the continuity and inclusion of wheelchair tennis in the annual UM student games. In the student games, residential colleges compete in sports including athletics, badminton, basketball, netball, soccer, swimming, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball.
There are plans to have a few inclusive sports included in next year’s UM student games. This would provide opportunities for students with and without disabilities to participate together in competition. This is one step in achieving an inclusive campus community.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Selina Khoo and Ms. Yuhanis Adnan are from the Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Malaya.