During a webinar on disability with Doha Debates, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson made comments on the Paralympics being seen as a ‘cure’ for disability rights.
The 11-time gold winning Paralympian, made the comments on the sporting tournament that made her a household name during the webinar (entitled, #DearWorldLive Access Denied: COVID-19 and the Disabled Community) worrying that the Games are seen as “a cure for everything” for people living with a disability.
The independent peer spoke of her concerns that the Paralympics are used as a reason not to “think differently” about the support that people with disabilities need and how they are valued, during an online discussion organised by Qatar Foundation’s Doha Debates.
During the webinar, Baroness Grey-Thompson said: “I’m slightly tired of every young person with a disability being told ‘you could be a Paralympian’.
“Just because you have a disability does not get you a ticket to the Paralympics. It does have the ability to open people’s eyes, but it won’t fix the world’s problems for people with disabilities on its own.
“That needs governments to think very differently about how they value people in society. When people use the saying ‘the weakest in society’, that puts people with disabilities back at the bottom of the pile again, which is not always helpful.”
During these unprecedented times that we live in with the COVID-19 pandemic, Baroness Grey-Thompson also fears that views on the disabled community may be hardened in society.
“In the UK, we don’t have equality, and coronavirus is showing that some of the things we thought we did have are under threat,” Baroness Grey-Thompson added.
“With this pandemic, people with disabilities are often not allowed family members in with them if they go into hospital, and very often it’s those family members who are fighting for their rights even then.
“So there is a real fear that they won’t have anyone standing up for them, and their quality of life.”
Throughout the webinar, Baroness Grey-Thompson made a lot of interesting points during the discussion. Even though we are in challenging times, Baroness Grey-Thompson has said positive changes can be made for the future.
Technology is a powerful tool, and it has been an essential aid during the lockdown and can be used to good use for the wider disabled community.
“We’ve been asking for technology to be used for things for years, and have been told ‘we can’t do it’,” she said.
“Well, I never thought I’d see the House of Lords go online, and if you can do that with the oldest institution in the world, the mother of parliaments, you can do it elsewhere.
“People without disabilities are also now realizing the experiences we have and calling it out when we face difficulties.
“That’s how things will change – when people recognize we don’t have equality just because we’re on TV a few times a year,” Baroness Grey-Thompson emphasised.
“When we have people with disabilities, for example, being represented in films and don’t have people without disabilities pretending to have them, that’s when we’ll know we’ve made it.
“I’m hoping that one thing to come out of this pandemic will be more understanding of disability rights and the challenges people with disabilities face, and a willingness to think differently.”