More than 4,000 para-athletes are in Rio for the 2016 Paralympic Games - the first time this event has been held in Latin America.

While sport takes centre-stage for the fortnight, organisers are hoping the Games will also serve as a catalyst for social change in Rio.

Beach for Everyone, a project launched 10 years ago, aims to provide safe access to the beaches for the physically handicapped.

It's co-founder, Ricardo Gonzalez, is optimistic about the effect the Games will have on people's attitudes.

"The Paralympic Games will touch the sensibility of the people," Gonzalez told Al Jazeera.

"To see that people with a disability can do everything, this attitude has to be stimulated. So the Paralympic Games is a great moment."


READ MORE: Rio revamped in run-up to Olympics


Accessibility still remains an issue in Rio with road crossings, public buildings and tourist sites built without giving the disabled much consideration.

"It's getting better, but so many things are made with no thought," said Brazilian para-triathlete Edson Rocha Nascimento.

"Public transportation, for example roads, buses and the metro, are very difficult to access if you are in a wheelchair."

Large amounts of public funds are diverted to building stadiums and broadcasting the Games. But disability expert Ahmed Habib hopes the brief spotlight on disability is worth the huge price tag attached.

"All we can hope is that people are watching the Paralympics at home and they start conversations with their families and their colleagues and realise that their perceptions about disabled people have been wrong all along the way," said Habib.

Rio gears up for the start of the Paralympic Games

Source: Al Jazeera News