Wheelchair Athletics developed along with other disability sports in the aftermath of World Wars I and II.
During the aftermath of World War II Sir Lugwig Guttman was director of the Spinal Injuries Center at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, England. As part of the rehabilitation of injured veterans he introduced competitive sports. He felt that giving the patients something interesting to do while rehabilitating would prolong their lives and help them become useful and respected members of society.
On July 28th 1948 Stoke Mandeville held the Games for the Paralyzed. This day also saw the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games. The Stoke Mandevile Games consisted of 16 paralyzed British ex-servicemen and women competing at archery on the fields of Stoke.
The first international competition for athletes in wheelchairs was organized in 1952. A total of 130 athletes from the UK and the Netherlands with spinal cord injuries competed in six different sports.
In 1956 the Stoke Mandeville Games was awarded the Sir Thomas Fearnley Cup for meritorious achievement in service to the Olympic movement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF) was formed in 1960 to allow all international competitions for individuals with spinal cord injuries. The games became known as the Olympiad for the Physically Disabled. At the 1976 Games in Toronto, Canada the rules were changed to allow other disabled athletes to compete. These games have evolved into the Paralympics we know today.