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UNESCO Chair Inclusive Physical Education, Sport, Recreation & Fitness

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The Chair’s purpose and objectives

unesco logoThe purpose of the Chair is to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation in the fields of inclusive physical education, adapted physical activity, sport, fitness and recreation for social inclusion of people with disabilities, their families and communities. The Chair will work to enhance individuals’ rights for social development and advancement, facilitating collaboration between high-level, internationally recognised researchers and teaching staff of the Institute and other institutions in Ireland and across the globe.


Thematic Scope of the Chair

The Chair will develop a “clearing house” function aligned with its online repository. It will also act as a bridge builder with civic society, reaching out to communities and stakeholders on an international platform to facilitate transformative change to peoples’ lives.

The full realisation of the goals of this Chair will involve broad reaching sector skill alliances and knowledge alliances to ensure impact at an individual, family and community level.




The Chair activities focus on CRAFTE (this will be modal on the website) strategic components i.e. Communication, Research, Advocacy, Funding, Training, Education, and on adopting a broad interdisciplinary approach with a view to maximising impact. As an independent entity, the biggest strength of UNESCO Chair IT, Tralee lies in its capacity to cultivate meaningful partnerships between a variety of key stakeholders, adjusting to needs as they arise. The Chairholder will lead on a proportionate and flexible planning process aimed at bringing policy and practice closer together. The strategy will be evidence-based, impact focused, innovative, responsive to change, adopting a longer term view to facilitate sustainable support.




The Institute of Technology, Tralee, with the establishment of the UNESCO Chair, is reinforcing and internationalising its commitment to the fields of inclusive practice and universal access. The UNESCO Chair has adopted the Universal Management Framework as an element of its toolkit to serve in the transition to more inclusive practice in PE, Sport, Recreation & Fitness.

In Ireland, the Institute’s partner on campus, the CARA National Adapted Physical Activity Centre (make a link to the CARA Website), will continue to provide a lead nationally in facilitating, co-ordinating and advocating for the inclusion of people with disabilities in sport, physical activity and physical education; while the UNESCO Chair’s National and International remit and partnership commitment will work to complement, support and showcase the work of the CARA Centre.


How to collaborate with the Chair:          

The UNESCO CHAIR is committed to support projects which advance the main goal of progressing towards a more inclusive society using physical activity as a privileged tool but it also welcomes innovative partnerships with other areas of research and knowledge.

In this sense, we invite all whose research interests and ideas are akin with the ethos of this Chair to share them with us and we commit to offer all the support we can for instance in terms of connecting them with potential partners, evaluate the feasibility of the project and offer suggestions, put in place necessary arrangements, help with funding proposals. The UNESCO chair is also open to collaborate on existing projects within the remit of its action.

Similarly, we welcome partnerships with non-academic institutions, who are committed to pursue the same goals, whether in terms of expressing their needs, developing specific projects or evaluating their efforts in promoting inclusive environments.

Initial contacts for potential collaboration can be made to: unesco@ittralee.ie

Areas of priority

  • Charter on Physical Education and Sport;
  • Peace building;
  • African countries;
  • Gender equality;
  • Youth;
  • Least developing countries;
  • Small island developing states;
  • Needs of disadvantaged and excluded groups;
  • Human rights based approach to physical activity programming;
  • Education for all;
  • Relationship between education and culture;
  • The use of digital technologies, dissemination and sharing of knowledge and resources.




Scope of Activity

Scope of the Chair


The Chair adopts a multi-faceted interagency approach to make a difference at societal level to ensure the sustainability and impact of actions. Action is in the areas of: policy and legislation, education training and research, awareness raising and advocacy, collaboration, sharing of resources, research and information.  People are the most valuable asset in the work of the Chair. People will envision the new reality and work to realise it.

People in IT Tralee


The Institute Executive closely regulates and governs the Chair development. Since the establishment of the Chair, and in scoping the necessary requirements for successfully achieving its goals and their wider social impact, IT, Tralee has adopted a pan-Institute implementation approach. The Chair is seen as an entity within the Institute, guided and promoted by its Chairholder and supported and developed by the Institute staff and its wider international partnership. The close proximity of the CARA Centre, our partner on campus, enables close synergies in our advancing our aligned goals.

Programmes of research and activity relating to the Chair have been broadly engaged in Institute-wide. Connected with the UNESCO Chair the Institute's ‘Campus of Inclusion’ commitment has led to the development of interdisciplinary strands by such areas as Health and Leisure, Technology, Engineering, Tourism, Multimedia, Nursing and Social Care, Business and Humanities. This commitment to multi-sectorial activity is in keeping with the Articles of the Chair and the process and principles of appreciative inquiry.

The Research Centres in the Institute have also linked in with the UNESCO Chair agenda. There have been collaborations with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development (CEED), The Irish Academy of Hospitality and Tourism (IAHT) and IMAR the Intelligent Mechatronics and RFID Research Centre.



The Chair partnership was drawn together at application stage and has grown since that point. The Partnership is fluid. In-line with our philosophy of approach, this is a necessary means of ensuring the level of innovation the Chair is endeavouring to achieve. Certain projects will draw the Chair closer to certain partners and this cycle will change over time as new projects and synergies develop. The Chair will work across sectors as relevant to the goals and objectives of the Chair; public, private, voluntary, community sectors, global multi-nationals, small and medium enterprises, and micro small and medium enterprises.

Achieving the Chair goals requires multiple partnerships across the 6 areas of operation as identified in our CRAFTE Strategy (this will be modal on the website) - Communication, Research, Advocacy, Funding, Training, and Education- for successful change. The International scope is vast as evidenced in the “UNESCO Chair Worldwide Collaboration” map.

Chair Network


The UNESCO IT Tralee is part of the UNESCO Chair global network. The Chair will work closely with two other longer established Chairs in Ireland namely the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre at the National University of Ireland, Galway and the UNESCO Chair in Education for Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy at University of Ulster.




Description: X:\lab\UNESCO_new structure\UNESCO\A_Communications\A.2_Virtual Platform\A.2.1_Website-newsletter\Website\Website profiles\UNESCO Staff Profiles\Florian from Academia.edu - photo.jpgDr. Florian Kiuppis became the UNESCO Chair Holder in April. Dr. Kiuppis is Associate Professor at Lillehammer University College, Norway in the Department of Education and Social Work where he is Head (co-leader) of the MA-programme ‘Inclusive Education’, responsible for teaching international students in Disability Studies and leading a research group called “Education -- Marginalisation and Minorities” (EDUMAMI), as part of the Ph.D programme entitled “Research Centre for Child and Youth Competence Development”.


Description: https://media.licdn.com/mpr/mpr/shrinknp_400_400/p/1/000/0b0/292/1d5443c.jpgCatherine Carty is the UNESCO Chair Manager and has worked in the Health and Leisure department at the IT Tralee for longer than she cares to admit!  During this time Catherine lectured in health promotion, lifestyle programming, exercise prescription, exercise physiology, behaviour change, activity leadership and was involved in the development and supervision of many research projects. Catherine maintained connections with professional bodies and EU research in areas of relevance to her teaching and research interests. As such, she was actively involved in many European Commission projects including EUROFIT, EUROSEEN, VOCASPORT, ECVET, and SMS- Sustainable Management of Sports Facilities. Catherine developed and coordinate European Commission funded projects including European Inclusive Physical Education Training (EIPET), Adapted Physical Activity in Vocational Education and Training (APAVET) and Universal Fitness Innovation & Transformation –UFIT.  Catherine sat on the National General Practitioner Exercise Referral Steering Committee in Ireland for many years. She was on the board of the leisure industry body Ireland Active (formerly ILAM) for 13 years, she also briefly assumed the role of Registrar of Register of Exercise Professionals (REPS) Ireland and in that guise linked with other registers internationally via ICREPs- the Internationally Confederation of Registers of Exercise professionals.


Dr. Therese Conway, Research & Policy Co-ordinator, therese.conway@staff.ittralee.ie

Therese completed her primary degree in Geography and Sociology in University College Cork in 2006 after which, she pursued a Masters in Planning and Sustainable Development also at UCC. Following a short planning career Therese commenced her PhD at NUI Galway having been awarded a scholarship through PRTLI4, as part of the Irish Social Sciences Platform (ISSP) and the Whitaker Institute (NUI Galway), Programme of research.

Prior to joining IT Tralee, Therese held the position of Human Geography Lecturer in the School of Geography and Archaeology, NUI Galway. Therese was also involved in the supervision of undergraduate and MA research dissertations. Inclusion and community engagement is a focus through service learning modules and civic engagement approaches.

Her research interests include tourism destination planning and development, with particular emphasis on alternative tourism and recreation forms such as wilderness escapes, ecotourism, social farming and inclusive recreation and tourism provision. Therese also has a specific interest in the importance of networks, networking and collaboration in tourism and recreation development and her work in these areas has been published in peer reviewed journals.

Therese is involved in many of the UNESCO Chair initiatives including postgraduate research supervision.


Ann O’Connor, ann.oconnor@staff.ittralee.ie

Ann has extensive experience working in the sport, leisure and education sectors gaining specific experience of deep engagement with a variety of Sporting National Governing Bodies.

Ann holds a BA degree, a higher Diploma in Education, a number of post-graduate diplomas and a Master of Business degree as well as a number of internationally recognised professional qualifications. Her Masters research focussed on risk perception management in adventure activities

On the domestic front Ann has worked on a number of projects including specific education and inclusion focused sporting projects as we as well as being involved in European level projects again in the sports and recreation space. Ann has presented at an International Conference on topics directly related to her research and acted as a consultant to both private and public sector organisations in the area of risk perception management. 


Katharina Schlueter,  katharina.schlueter@staff.ittralee.ie

Katharina worked for the German Paralympic Sport Federation, Section of Lower-Saxony, from 2010 until 2015 as the leader of the section “Grassroots Sports/Youth/School”, mainly being responsible for Project and Event management, counseling and conceptualizing new initiatives and projects in the field of disability and inclusive sport. Before that, from 2008-2010, she conducted sport programs for children with special needs in after school courses in 4 primary schools in Cologne/Germany. At the moment she is qualifying to be a “Sports Foreign Relations Expert”, a postgraduate Diploma jointly supported by the German Sport University Cologne, the German Olympic Sports Confederation and the German Federal Foreign Office with focus on development through/of sport. Moreover, she is highly interested in development through inclusive sport in developing countries.

Katharina’s qualifications: Diplom Sport Scientist (equivalent to Masters) and teaching qualification for Physical Education and English. Thesis: Correlation between specific cardiovascular risk factors and activity patterns within type 2 diabetes patients.


Shauna Kearney, shauna.kearney@staff.ittralee.ie

Shauna hails from County Wexford in Ireland. Having previously worked for the Agitos Foundation the developing arm of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Shauna’s focus was on sport in developing countries. With a background in Sports Science graduating with an honours B.Sc from Dublin City University (DCU), Shauna received her Masters, the Eramus Mundus Masters in Adapted Physical Activity from Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Shauna’s post graduate research was focused on women in elite disability sport and the barriers they face in taking part in sport.

Within her time in DCU Shauna began to get involved in adapted sports and activities involving people with disabilities. For her final year project of her Bachelors Degree Shauna looked at the effect music tempo played on exercise exertion levels in children with intellectual disabilities.

Shauna has spent her summers for the past number of years working in a school for children with special needs trying to increase the physical activity levels of the students. She has also been involved in organising a Sports Ability Day in Limerick in association with the Limerick Sports Partnership.


Aisling Sugrue,  aisling.sugrue@staff.ittralee.ie

Aisling is a graduate from Health and Leisure with Massage at the Institute of Technology, Tralee. As part of her work placement, Aisling participated in the international volunteer programme at a leading disability service in Alaska and UNESCO partner, Hope Community Resources. This work inspired Aisling’s research masters which evaluated the impact of the volunteer programme. The findings most relevant to the UNESCO chair were the impact the volunteer’s health and recreation skills had on the provision of adapted and inclusive services for Hope’s service users; and also the impact the experience at Hope had on the volunteer’s career paths, in particular for volunteers from countries where disability service provision was not as developed.

Aisling has experience working and volunteering with people with various levels of ability in various capacities. Some of which includes massage therapy, hydrotherapy, exercise prescription and many recreation camps run through the CARA centre, for example Camp Abilities and Surf to Heal. Aisling is very enthusiastic about working towards mainstreaming diversity on the UNESCO project, especially as the strengths-based, salutogenic and multidimensional philosophy of the project is in alignment with her own person value system.


Current Projects


UNESCO, IT Tralee, in partnership with international children’s charity, Plan International Ireland and CARA (National Adapted Physical Activity Centre Ireland) has developed a pioneering sports inclusion programme and toolkit  for use in developing countries to promote participation and inclusion among children and adults with disabilities. This innovative programme was piloted in two African countries, in Togo in October 2015 and in two locations in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa and Gambella in November 2015.

“Plan2Inclusivize” provides a fundamental understanding of disability and hands-on practice in order to include children with disabilities in sport and play activities. The ultimate aim of Plan2Inclusivize is to improve the lives of children with a disability through the medium of sport and active play.
"Plan2Inclusivize Togo is about empowering the community volunteers and youth workers to engage with their communities as a whole to elevate the concept and practice of inclusion of children and youth with disabilities in sports to new heights in Togo and Ethiopia," said Ann O Connor (UNESCO IT Tralee) as the partnership was launched this week.

“We are very excited to be part of this programme as it will help to inform future standards of inclusive sports programmes and policy, not only in Togo but also in other countries in Africa as the training is cascaded through Plan International. Mainstreaming inclusion, in both development and humanitarian contexts, is essential if we are to provide a quality education for all children,” said Frank Velthuizen of Plan International Ireland.

European Sector Skills Alliance

On Thursday 12th November, the UNESCO Chair IT Tralee in association with Sport Ireland hosted an exploratory round table meeting at Sports HQ Abbotstown, Dublin in order to discuss the possibility of having an Irish representation in a European Sector Skills Alliance. The meeting was attended by representatives from ITT, Sport Ireland, EOSE and SARI. The talks went well and discussed the importance of an alliance to improve the mobility of education and employment in the sport and physical activity sector. A follow up meeting will take place at the start of 2016 which will allow other Irish organisations the chance to be involved and improve the sector.

Sector Skills alliances have been proven to be beneficial in related and alternative sectors, Sector Skills Alliances aim to close the gap between labour market demand and vocational training. They also seek to increase the transparency and recognition of qualifications across borders. All in all they can serve to increase the professionalism of the sector internationally by providing a platform for sharing and a unified approach.

UFIT - Universal Fitness Inclusion Training

ufitThe UNESCO Chair and CARA centre at IT, Tralee have partnered with the European Observatory of Sports Employment (EOSE), Universidad Poltecnica De Madrid, Skillsactive UK, Palacky University in Olomouc and the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) to refine and transfer resources for Vocational and Educational Training (VET) trainers with the aim of equipping fitness professionals with sufficient knowledge, competence and skill to work with people with disabilities in fitness environments.

In addition the project will exemplify the Universal Management Framework and provide direction to centre managers regarding inclusive practice. The project draws together a Sector Skills Alliance and Knowledge Alliance to maximise the impact and to ensure responsiveness to labour market needs.


European Week of Sport (EWOS) ABILITY LINK*KIT Project

sport weekThe UNESCO Chair at IT Tralee in collaboration with the European Paralympic Committee, SPIN Sport Innovation and a number of other European partners are embarking on a project to create a lasting trans-national and trans-sectorial European partnership to link national disability sport structures and local stakeholders. Researchers will identify and test good practices for organising awareness raising events for sports and HEPA for and with people with disabilities, as well as identifying ways to turn one off awareness activities into higher day-to-day participation levels. From these findings a practical Toolkit will be developed for all countries to learn from. This project will be launched in May 2015 in Vienna, Austria.


recallThe UNESCO team are involved in a European project called “Recall – Games of the Past – Sport for Tomorrow”. The project is being led by TAFISA “The Association for International Sport for All”. The aim of this project is to reintroduce Traditional Sports & Games into the daily lives of young people as a means to tackle social challenges of today. IT Tralee and the UNESCO Chair role in the project is to ensure that the sports and games selected are as inclusive as possible and to provide recommendations and guidelines to help professionals achieving that goal.


assistidThe UNESCO Chair is now a partner on a major Irish-led EU research programme in Autism and Intellectual Disability, co-funded (9 million euro in total) by the EU Marie Curie ASSISTID Cofund and the Irish charity RESPECT was launched on the 15th May 2014. This wide ranging research project, in this specific field, is the first of its kind in Europe.

The programme will promote research into the development and application of assistive technologies to enhance the quality of life of people with intellectual disabilities and autism, their carers and families. ASSISTID is the first structured research programme of its kind in Europe and the most significant investment into assistive technologies research to date.

Assistive Technologies refers to practical tools that can support the functional needs of people who experience difficulties associated with disability or ageing. For people with autism or intellectual disabilities, assistive technologies can transform their lives and allow them to complete everyday tasks which could otherwise be impossible. The National Disability Authority Ireland (NDA) report from 2012 stated that ‘Assistive Technologies is centrally important for disability policy as it is one of the more concrete ways that the barriers to participation in society can be overcome for people with disabilities’.

The ASSISTID programme which will fund 40 post-doctoral fellows is co-funded by the European Commission and the charity RESPECT, and is coordinated by the DOCTRID Research Institute. The DOCTRID Research Institute includes the Daughters of Charity Disability Support Services, all of the universities on the island of Ireland, RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland), Dublin and Tralee Institutes of Technology (UNESCO Chair research centre and  IMaR: Intelligent Mechatronics and Radio Frequency)- and the US universities Michigan State University and the University of Massachusetts. This is the first time that all of the universities on the island of Ireland have joined together in an EU funded research consortium.


master degree

Student: Aoife Fitzpatrick, aoife.fitzpatrick@research.ittralee.ie

Research Topic: - “Design a motor skills activity program with a mobile application for use in and out of schools by parents as para-educators of children with autism”

Student: Thabo Philmon Tsiki, thabo.philmon.tsiki@research.ittralee.ie

Research Topic: - “The Development of Occupational Standards for use by NGOs Pertaining to the inclusion of people with Disabilities in Sports Programmes in the Developing countries”

Student: Gerard Masdeu Yélamos, gerard.masdeu@research.ittralee.ie

Research Topic: - “Validating and Activating the Universal Management Framework for Inclusive Fitness”

Student Name: Linda Raymond, linda.raymond@research.ittralee.ie

Research Topic: - “Universal Fitness Inclusion Training: Occupational standards and resource pack development and validation”

Student Name: Maura Leen, maura.leen@research.ittralee.ie

Research Topic: - “A Descriptive Phenomenological Study to Examine the Effect of Assistance Dogs on Engagement of Children with Autism, in Sport and Physical Activity (PAADS)”.

Student Name: Sheila O’Sullivan, sheila.osullivan@research.ittralee.ie

 “A phenomenological, mixed-methods evaluation, of the prospective health-related impact of a physical activity programme for adults with an intellectual disability”.

Student Name: Koffi Atitso FIATI, koffi.atitso.fiati@research.ittralee.ie

Research Topic: - “The development and validation of a resource kit for use by NGOs pertaining to the inclusion of people with disabilities in sports based programmes in developing, post disaster and post conflict regions (DPCPD)”

Student Name:  Alexander Maguire,   alexander.maguire@research.ittralee.ie

Research Topic: - “Applications of Sensor Technology in Autism & Associated Sensory Learning Environments”