It’s time to re-open the debate on attitudes to disability

XIV Paralympic Games
One year on from the Paralympic Games – have attitudes changed?

This week the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey published her plans for “further lasting change to attitudes and aspirations”.

In a couple of months we will be marking the one year anniversary of the Paralympics; a whole year since Lord Coe said we’d never look at disability the same again.

If we want to make this a better place for disabled people we have to start by improving public attitudes to disability.

Disabled people tell us that attitudes continue to be an issue

It’s all about visibility. Most non-disabled people don’t meet disabled people, so what gets broadcast is crucial in shaping attitudes.

The Minister told parliament she wants to “harnesses the inspirational power of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – aiming to deliver further lasting change to attitudes and aspirations”.

She is right that the Paralympics were a break-through moment. Disability has never been talked about so openly; disabled people have never been so visible. Positive portrayals of disabled people out-weighed the benefits scrounger rhetoric. Polling straight after the games showed an impact on the public’s view of disability.

You don’t change attitudes in a fortnight

Lord Coe recently told the Lords that you have to talk about legacy in terms of ten years. However one year on it is the right to time to start asking where things are at when it comes to attitudes to disability.

Jack Carroll came second in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent (Photo credit: University of Salford)

Over the last year, parts of the media have built on the legacy of visibility. We’ve seen mainstream films tackle disability and sex. We’ve seen channel four stick to its commitment to disability programming and pushing through disabled. We’ve seen a young man with cerebral palsy finish second in Britain’s Got Talent.

But elsewhere we’ve also seen a ramping up of the ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ and the on-going misuse of welfare stats. We’ve seen a councillor in Cornwall compare disabled children to deformed lambs, which should be put down. Glastonbury 2013 may have been the best yet, but recent research showed that festivals are less than committed when it comes to giving disabled people the chance to attend.

Scope wants to know what you think

Do you think attitudes to disability are a problem? Have you seen them get better or worse in the last year? Comment below, tweet us or let us know on Facebook.

One thought on “It’s time to re-open the debate on attitudes to disability”

  1. I have been claiming ESA for a year now (at the Tribunal Phase at the moment), and what I’ve seen in regards to non-disabled people’s attitudes is that the media demonises us. I do not have a disability that can be seen (chronic pain and severe depression) so when I sit in a disabled seat on the bus I get shouted at and harassed. When I tell people that I cannot move because of the pain I am branded a liar and a ‘leech’.
    The media, especially the Daily Mail, make us all seem like lazy frauds who just don’t want to work. The Government don’t help this by producing ‘statistics’ that show how many people stopped claiming ESA when the WCA came into place. I personally would not have been able to cope with the assessments if I had not previously known about them, so I understand why so many people chose not to continue with the claim.
    In the UK, the media dictates how we should perceive others, and unfortunately the disabled population of the UK is taking the brunt of the hate as with Immigrants and ironically the Tories who are trying to extinguish our spirits.

    Sorry for the long comment.

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