Where is the Paralympics effect?

As visitors to the Scope website offer their thoughts in a new survey on attitudes to disabled people, one particular question is picking up momentum in the media. Have the Paralympics changed anything for disabled people?

Back in September the consensus was that “we would never look at disability in the same way again”.

For some, that feels like a long time ago.Last month disabled people took to the streets to protest against cuts. Report after report underlines the impact of spiralling living costs, stagnant incomes and the loss of national and local support on the lives of disabled people and their families.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson speaks out

It was Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who finally said what many people were thinking. In a comment piece last week she described a sports dinner.

“I had to use the back entrance, nothing much unusual or offensive in that. However, I could have got in the front (there was a ramp there albeit tucked away) but the organisers just had not thought about it. When I wanted to use the bathroom it took several minutes to find a ramp. I was also asked if I really needed to “go”. While I was in the bathroom the ramp was taken away, so I could not get back down the steps.”

Tanni asks where the evidence is of a change in attitudes.

A couple of days later she posed an even more challenging question, this time in the Times. Have the Paralympics made it easier for the Government to strip disabled people of vital support by presenting an unrealistic image of what disabled can achieve?

“Don’t be fooled by what Paralympians can do. They are not typical of disabled people. They are remarkably good at the sport they do, but it is not a realistic view of disabled life, no more than Olympians represent anyone else.”

So is it time to write off the Paralympics effect?

Attitudes to disabled people

Disabled people tell Scope that greater visibility and public discussion of their lives makes a difference.

During the Games Ellie Simmonds, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock become national heroes. With Channel 4 leading the way, Disability was consistently, openly and widely talked about like never before. Three different polls taken straight after the games pointed to a change in public attitudes.

But it takes longer than a fortnight to change attitudes.

Times are undoubtedly tough for disabled people. But maybe rather than write the Paralympics effect off, we should be asking what we can do to build on it and keep it going.

What we can do increase disabled people’s visibility in the media, in politics, in the arts and above all in everyday life? (It’s certainly good news that Channel 4’s Last Leg is returning.)

How can use the Paralympics to make the point to the Government that the starting point for welfare should be what do disabled people need to live their lives – not what can we take away to save money?

As Tanni says we need to keep the fight going.

Take part in our attitudes survey

Scope wants to hear your views: take part in our new survey on attitudes to disabled people.