Equality and equity
Posted October 9, 2015on:
A small storm brewed in a teacup recently. Locals responded to the announcement that the athletes participating in the upcoming Asean Para Games in Singapore might have to rely on public transport to move between the Games Village and the event venues.
The responses were predictably divisive. For example, those against the move pointed out that public transport delays or breakdowns might affect the athletes’ concentration.
Those who had no objections pointed out that this was another way to show that the para-athletes were on equal footing with their able-bodied counterparts. I wonder how many able-bodied athletes have to take public transport during a major sporting event.
When Singapore hosted the Youth Olympics in 2010, I recall long lines of air-conditioned coaches picking up and dropping off youth athletes and plying specially marked stretches of road.
If equality is the issue, then the para-athletes should get at least the same treatment as other athletes.
Equality is treating everyone the same. Equity, on the other hand, could mean giving people more (or less) so as to level the playing field.
If we want to treat para-athletes the same, then we should give them dedicated transport like we would able-bodied ones. The latter get comfortable coaches or private transport so they are not distracted by inconveniences like longer routes and transport delays.
If we attempt to create equity, then the para-athletes should be given a leg up so to speak. We do this if we recognize that they are already disadvantaged because we do not design the world for them. We make accommodations not because we feel sorry for them or because we want them to keep relying on us. It is just the right thing to do.
Equity might not be necessary for the Games. The athletes are not asking for it. If they are anything like the ones participating in the Rio para-games, they are already better than us. We can aim lower at equality. Give them the transport we give other athletes.