Participation in sports clubs is often ascribed with the ability to promote social integration of people with disabilities, since it can provide a platform for creating social networks and friendships. However, integration is not reached automatically, and it is strongly reliant on specific factors and conditions. Therefore, this study compares the degree of social integration of members with and without disabilities and analyses individual and structural factors relevant for social integration of members with disabilities. Social integration is conceptualised as a multidimensional concept and focuses on socio-cultural and socio-affective (interaction, identification) dimensions.
Statistical regression analyses were conducted using data from 13,082 members (N = 1482 of that reported at least one disability) in 642 sports clubs in ten European countries (Belgium (Flanders), Denmark, England, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland).
The results show that members with disabilities are integrated to the same extent as members without disabilities, and the degree of social integration seems to be more reliant on individual factors than on structural factors of sports clubs. Affiliation and participation in a club (volunteering, participation in competitive sport, long-term membership, frequency of sports participation, team/group size) are relevant for social integration. Furthermore, the setting matters, as members with disabilities practising in both settings, only with people with disabilities as well as together with members without disabilities, are slightly better integrated regarding the ‘interaction’-dimension than those practising in a separate setting only.