Steph Cutler hands out her own Paralympic medals

Guest post from Steph Cutler www.making-lemonade.co.uk

Even though the Paralympics has yet to finish, I think London already takes gold.

The London 2012 Paralympic Games are being shown in more countries than any previous Paralympic Games. Organisers have agreed a series of TV deals which mean over 100 countries are screening the games.

While we have a long way to go in the UK before disabled people enjoy equality, it is worth remembering that we are streets ahead of many other countries. It is simply amazing that more countries than ever are showing the 2012 Paralympics. Raising awareness often leads to change and what could be better than the most global platform to date to do this? This alone scores my first gold medal.

Not only is it being shown in countries who have previously taken little or no interest, but big players in sporting nations have committed to hours of airtime. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is showing 100 hours, and Channel 4 is broadcasting 150 hours of live coverage with BBC 5 Live covering the radio waves.

Paralympic power!

What I love more than this, is that the new profile of the Paralympics has the power to shame! Broadcasters in the United States have been accused over many years of ignoring the Paralympics, but this year they have been forced to rethink their scheduling.

NBC was planning just four 60-minute highlight programmes followed by one 90-minute round-up after the Games were over. NBC is now running a daily highlights package via the US Paralympics YouTube channel following public pressure. Some way to go before America get it, but 2012 is the year they can learn from a small island!

Of course people power is compelling, but let’s not get too wrapped up in the bubble of Paralympic fever. Let’s keep our feet, or blades, or whatever alternatives to feet we have (suddenly anything goes and I love it!) on the ground.

My next gold comes in the commercial backing that the Paralympics is experiencing. Companies in the US are running slick TV commercials featuring disabled athletes endorsing a range of products. Sponsoring the Games is one thing but for companies to use disabled people to endorse a product takes this a step, no actually a leap, further.

Disabled people mean business!

While disability is riding the crest of a huge public profile coupled with an increasingly enthusiastic audience we cannot be ignored. Right now it is not about it being a nice thing to do. We can’t be ignored because we mean business, and better still, that business knows it!

Sainsbury’s is the first, and indeed only, Paralympic exclusive sponsor the Games has ever seen. Evidently, the retailer believes the Paralympics are not secondary to the main event and so there is a commercial benefit by association. This gets my third gold medal.

My next gold medal is given on the basis of legacy. Heathrow Airport has had the challenge of welcoming thousands of Paralympic athletes through the airport. Heathrow has invested in a package of permanent accessibility improvements which include staff training and specialist lifts and facilities. These changes will continue to benefit all passengers with reduced mobility long after the last medal has been awarded.

My final gold is driven by public demand. The Royal Mail has said it will now issue the individual stamps of our Paralympic gold medallists and get the gold paint out again to paint the local post boxes of winners.

Ironically, the reason behind the initial decision not to offer the same congratulatory gesture to Paralympic gold medallists as was offered to their Olympic counterparts, was that there are too many gold Paralympians! Basically, disabled people are too successful! Now isn’t that a nice change?

 

William’s day at the Paralympics

Guest post from Vicki Lee – mum and carer.

Team GB fan

The most fascinating thing about our early morning train journey down to the Olympic Park, according to my disabled son William, aged nine, was that “the train had tables!”

I was hoping that this visit was going to inspire him. This is the boy who came last on sports day. This is the boy who nobody wanted to pick for their team.

His big sister Joanna, 15, and I hung on to Will for dear life as we made our way from Stratford station with thousands of others to take our seats at the stadium.

It wasn’t long before Will attracted a fair bit of attention with his wonderful enthusiastic cheering, yelling, clapping and flag waving. He’d certainly already won a medal in packed-lunch eating!

By the end of our session we’d seen field heats of discus, long jump, hammer throw, and shot-put as well as track wheelchair races and running – the highlight being GB’s Richard Whitehead winning the gold medal in the 200 metres.

As the Union Jack was raised to the National Anthem, Will yelled at the top of his voice: “I know this one everyone!”

The hours had flown by (so much so there’d not even been a trip to the toilet!) and the volunteer games-makers were truly fabulous.

After a glorious day out we made our way back to the train ‘with tables’. I asked William whether he thought he’d like to try any of the new sports he’d seen, and he said simply: “I think I’d like to try that one where you throw yourself in a sandpit!”

Mission accomplished. He was definitely inspired!