Disabled or just differently abled?

Apologies for the long gap between this and my last post, life suddenly took over!  A bit out of date but I think still relevant.  An article I wrote for newspaper on whether the Paralympics will have any lasting impact on people’s perception of the disabled.  As always, feel free to comment!

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“I do not deny that Paralympians have shown us all what can be achievable in the face of extreme adversity.

I do not deny that they have the potential to become heroes and an inspiration to us all.  But as the glamour of the games quickly fades away, the long entrenched prejudices and perceptions of the disabled remain.  This cannot be altered in just eleven days – fact.

One could argue perhaps callously that by holding the games at all only serves to widen the gap between the abled and the disabled.  Why?  We do not see the accomplishments of these Paralympians in terms of just achievement.  A fact of course which does not hold true for the Olympic games.  We see these athletes as amazing because of their disability – ‘oh look what he did even though he’s in a wheelchair’.  In my mind this does not alter perceptions, it merely reinforces the idea that these athletes are disabled. In order to make true leaps towards altering perceptions we must see people in terms of ability not disability.  The Paralympics while of course emphasising achievement in the face of adversity inadvertently emphasises achievement because of adversity.

An unfortunate irony of the London 2012 Paralympics is that London itself is not truly accessible to the disabled.  Try being a wheelchair user and attempting to use the tube for example.  This of course is one of many more pressing concerns for disabled people.  To broadcast eleven days of Paralympic sporting achievement, whilst I hope proves to be an inspiration to many, puts the interest of an elite minority above the concerns of the majority.  11 days of sporting achievement does not change the reality for many disabled people.  The Paralympics does not articulate the emotional effects of disability in its more negative forms, nor does it articulate the real concerns of many disabled people facing day to day tasks.

Disabled people are facing the terrifying prospect of 20% government cuts, should the coalition push ahead with plans to abolish the Independent Living Fund in 2015.  With this in mind I find it hard to believe becoming a Paralympian is top of the agenda for many. And in that respect, no the Paralympics will not, in my opinion having any lasting impact on people’s perception and approach to the disabled.”

Follow me on twitter: @LucyBarclay1

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Olympics vs Paralympics

Last week I was lucky enough to head over to the Olympic Park.  It was an amazing day and an amazing experience.  I have to say it really refuelled my excitement for London 2012 – Patriotism took hold once again with ferocious cheering for team GB.

Photosynth pan of basketball arena

Olympic Park

Trafalgar Square

The park is incredible and six times the size I had assumed it to be.  I have to admit it was quite the walk between venues.  I saw goal ball in the copper box followed by wheelchair basketball at the (what looks to be inflatable) basketball arena.  Both sports I found to be an inspiration – the basketball, well quite frankly it was terrifying!

Later on in the day having headed Trafalgar square-ward I sat watching the big screen (although it’s supposed to be summer, I would advise a thick coat at the very least).  An explanation of how different disabilities are ‘graded’ in events hit the screen, showing how events are grouped and how according to disability, more points or time concessions are awarded.  So forgive me, if the Paralympics is graded according to ability why then doesn’t everyone compete in the same games?

Ellie Simmonds wins Gold

Of course there is the argument that the media would automatically gravitate towards the likes of Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis leaving those less able-bodied in the lurch.  Yet may I point out that in Beijing, team GB came second in the Paralympics yet 4th in the Olympics.  Is it then not true to say that these Paralympians would so too act as media magnets just as any able bodied Olympian?  The likes of Ellie Simmonds and David Weir spring to mind …

If this ‘grading’ system separates Paralympic athletes then why not have a 4 week games that includes people of all ability levels?  Why is the separation from ‘mainstream’ athletes necessary? Everyone would then contribute to the same medal table, competing for the same team.

At the end of the day I’m cheering for team GB – why that has to be team GB in two separate tournaments I am bemused by.  Olympian or Paralympian – they are both an inspiration, and both could thrash me!

Follow me on twitter: @LucyBarclay1   

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