Purpose: This qualitative study aimed to compare the experiences of two groups of female athletes - those with and without visual disability- who participate in sports.
Method: In-depth interviews were conducted with 16 athletes and thematic analysis of the data was done.
Results: Both groups identified various benefits of engaging in sports, including increased fitness and higher self-esteem. Para-athletes felt that sports provided them with opportunities to break stereotypes associated with disability. Both groups also identified certain barriers impeding sports participation, the most pervasive of these being poor infrastructure. In terms of differences, athletes without disability were initiated into sports at a much earlier age, had enjoyed more freedom in choosing their sport, and were given more family support than the para-athletes.
Conclusion: An analysis of the findings in terms of the Self-Determination Theory (Deci & Ryan, 2002) indicated that needs for competence, autonomy and relatedness were being more wholly met through sports-related experiences for athletes without disability than for the para-athletes.
Implications: Current conditions within para-sport need to be improved by providing more sporting choices to athletes with disability, easier access to sports opportunities at an earlier age, development of self-efficacy with regard to sports, challenging of stereotypes, and generating awareness among parents that sports can be a viable and safe option for their daughters.