The London 2012 Paralympic Games were a triumph. They entertained, impressed and inspired the nation, showing the very best of disabled sport. But now that the athletes are heading back to the real world, Chris Martin has packed up his piano and the cleaning crew have finally managed to shift the last of the confetti in the Olympic stadium, what does the aftermath of the Games mean for Britain’s disabled people?
During the Games, the media and the public have opened their minds and their hearts to the thousands of talented, disabled athletes who left us all awe-struck in London. For the eleven days of the Games, disability entered the mainstream. All the negativity that existed before has been forgotten as we celebrated achievement and ability instead.
However, the danger is that now the Games are over, disability creeps back into the shadows and we forget everything we’ve seen, learned and embraced about disability and disabled people.
What many people fail to understand is that being disabled is hard. There are so many barriers, from benefits to access to attitudes, that get in the way. But it doesn’t have to mean that there are no opportunities to go on and shine, and we need the public on board to help disabled people do just that.
Just like the Paralympics, we at Enable focus on what our readers can do, not what they can’t, seeing beyond the disability and looking at ability instead. That’s been our message since the magazine launched, and we want more media outlets, politicians and members of the public to start thinking this way.
So we’re asking a favour from you. It’s not a big one. It won’t take up much of your time. And it certainly won’t cost you any money. We’re just asking that you don’t forget.
The Paralympic flame may have gone out for these Games, but that doesn’t mean that our support, interest and pride for disabled people needs to go with it. Don’t let disability disappear from the agenda. Keep championing Britain’s disabled people, whether they’re gold medallists or your next door neighbour. We can change attitudes if we work together.
We’re not the only ones who feel this way – here’s what Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Katie Price, comedian Greg Hemphill and campaigner and mum Nicky Clark to say…
“The Paralympic Games have been an amazing spectacle, with a growing appreciation of what disabled people are capable of achieving. Let’s build on that feeling and make sure that the spirit of these Games continues long after the flame dies. Don’t forget the accomplishments you have seen at the Games, but try to understand that disabled people throughout the country strive hard to achieve their own personal goals every day.” – Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
“The Paralympic Games have been absolutely incredible, as has Britain’s support for these talented athletes. However, the athletes aren’t the only ones achieving big things, and we have to continue to recognise and support the amazing things disabled people are doing every day, whether they’re winning gold medals, setting up a business or walking for the first time when they were told they never would. We need to keep up this positive attitude towards disability and disabled people – #dontforget!” – Katie Price
“In the past, The paralympics always felt like an afterthought to the main spectacle of the Olympics. Not so, London 2012. This time, there seemed to be no separation between the events. A seamless continuation, a month long celebration of human fortitude. We were shown with startling clarity that an athlete is an athlete is an athlete, despite whatever personal obstacles any one individual had to overcome. 2012 showed that we had come so very far, but we can go further still. We must now strive to continue the spirit of inclusion fostered by the Games, beyond this unforgettable summer. #dontforget” – Greg Hemphill
“The Paralympics coverage and understanding of what our elite disabled athletes can and do achieve has brought knowledge and understanding of disability to the wider public. 11 days of featuring disabled people on our TV screens, has prompted an unprecedented level of appreciation and celebration. This was my hope when I began campaigning for authentic presentations of disability in media 4 years ago. We must continue this so that the legacy of the games will have a lasting impact on the lives of all disabled people, whether elite athlete or not. We’ve seen that hearts and minds are open to possibility. Let’s make this permanent and be sure we #dontforget.” – Nicky Clark
We’re not just appealing to you, our readers. We want everyone to get involved. We want the mainstream media to think about what they’re reporting. We want politicians to reflect on this summer’s amazing events before they go for another change to the benefits system. We want people to think twice before they jump to the conclusion that all disabled people are just scrounging off the system.
So spread the word. Get on Twitter, follow us at @EnableMagazine and show your support by tweeting a link to this page with the hashtag #dontforget. We can change the way the world sees disability. And that change starts with you.