Situated in Belgium, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) has been a centre of learning for nearly six centuries. Today, it is Belgium's largest university and, founded in 1425, one of the oldest and most renowned universities in Europe. As a leading European research university and co-founder of the League of European Research Universities (LERU), KU Leuven offers a wide variety of international master’s programmes, all supported by high-quality, innovative, interdisciplinary research.
KU Leuven hosts over 55,000 students for the academic year 2016-2017. KU Leuven has Erasmus contracts with over 400 European universities and international contracts all over the world: Netherlands, Germany, United Kingdom, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Latvia, France, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa, Morocco, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia. The number of international students more than doubled to about 8400 students in ten years time. KU Leuven holds over 50 international projects in development cooperation and educational interuniversity cooperation.
The Biomedical Sciences Group consists of the Faculties of Medicine, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences. Within the Faculty of Kinesiology and Rehabilitation Sciences, the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences consists of four research groups, each contributing to the scientific knowledge in specific rehabilitation areas. There are currently 22 professors, around 70 ongoing PhDs and 10 part-time teaching assistants active in the department. The main teaching responsibility of the department lies within the Bachelor and Master (Dutch and English) in Rehabilitation Sciences and Physiotherapy. The department also coordinates the doctoral school program ‘Exercise and Physical Activity in Health and Disease’ and is involved in a European Erasmus Mundus joint doctorate programme. One of the key research areas within the department is the impact of inactivity and exercise training in patients with chronic disease and disabilities.
The IDEAL project is initiated by the Research Group Adapted Physical Activity (APA) and Psychomotor Rehabilitation. The most important research line of the APA Unit within the Research Group is focused on the relation impairment – activity in the continuum from rehabilitation to elite sports. Minimizing the impact of impairment on activity enlarges the social range of action (rehabilitation) and provides a solid basis for fair sports competition for people with various types of disabilities (neuromusculoskeletal, visual). Over the last 12 years, the focus of the APA unit has shifted more and more towards evidence-based research in athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID). The Ph.D. of Dr. Van Biesen was a first step in bridging the knowledge gaps between sports science and cognitive science and has resulted in an evidence-based classification system for table tennis players with ID and their re-inclusion in the Paralympic Games in 2012. Since that time, the Research Group Adapted Physical Activity has been recognized by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) as the “Research and Development Centre for Classification of athletes with intellectual impairment” (from here on referred to as the KU Leuven R&D Centre). The KU Leuven R&D Centre is supervised by principal investigator (PI) Prof. Yves Vanlandewijck (supervisor of this project) and coordinated by Dr. Debbie Van Biesen (co-supervisor). The KU Leuven R&D Centre is responsible for demonstrating the impact of impaired intellectual functioning on sports performance and validating the assessment tools in various Paralympic sports.
The basis for this project was formed through the close collaboration with the responsible international disability sport federations, through joint projects with partner research institutions across the EU, and most of all through numerous discussions with ID athletes and their coaches and caregivers.
Through this project, we will apply the unique expertise that has been built up in the KU Leuven R&D Centre and its associated international research groups to articulate the relationship between intellectual disabilities and physical activity and sport. Taking the expertise developed around a range of sports and from multidisciplinary perspectives, the project will apply the learning to the broader context, beyond the level of elite sport, to participation in everyday (grassroots) activities.
The following are involved in the project:
IDEAL Project Principal Investigator
Supervisor of Research Project
Overall Project Coordinator
WP Coordinator, Work Package 1
Supervisor of PhD Project
Adriana Marin Urkiza
Field Coordinator (Belgium)