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European Vocational Skills Week
News article26 August 2020Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion1 min read

Abilympics: Changing the narrative about disability and professional skills


©Kristine Wook - Unsplash

The international Abilympics skills competition has been challenging traditional views of ability for more than 40 years. Set up in Japan in 1972 as a national tournament, it became an international event nine years later to coincide with the UN’s International Year of Persons with Disabilities.

Since then, the contest – combining professional abilities and Olympic ideals – has helped to overturn prejudices about the skills and potential of people with disabilities, resulting in increased employment opportunities and vocational stability.

It draws inspiration from the both the Worldskills competition and the Paralympics and endeavours to realise a society where people with and without disabilities have equal rights and opportunities. It does this through demonstrating, in a competitive situation, the talent and professional excellence of people with disabilities.

“Each person, wherever she is, whoever she is, has a talent, and this talent can be identified and transformed through professional training,” Noël Roger, president of Abilympics France, said at the opening ceremony of the 2016 competition in Bordeaux. “Success in life, daily life and professional life, can be achieved by each of them.”

The International Abilympics has been held in Perth, Prague, Delhi, Shizuoka, Seoul and Bordeaux. The next edition takes place in Moscow in May 2021, when 500 competitors from 35 countries will participate in more than 50 challenges in disciplines including IT, food, healthcare, construction and creative arts. Participants come from across Europe and around the world.

Whatever a person’s mental, physical, motor or sensory disability, the competition is a unique opportunity to change the way companies and employees around the world view disability at work.

“It’s about individuals demonstrating to themselves and others that they are better than they ever thought they were, that they are better than they were told they were,” said Simon Bartley, president of Worldskills International.