The starting gun has been fired on the Paralympics Legacy debate

Did London 2012 change the lives of disabled people?

Last week the Government argued that the “Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”.

Yesterday two well-known former Paralympians and good friends of Scope – Ade Adepitan and Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson – had their say.

Ade Adepitan – Actor, TV presenter and Great Britain wheelchair basketball Paralympian

Ade, who’s forging a career as a presenter on C4, thinks the games has changed perceptions of disability.

In a great interview with Nick Curtis at the Standard, Ade says he hears “people saying: ‘I’ve suddenly seen more disabled people on the streets: where do they come from?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, the bastards, they’ve been hiding underground. Who let them free?’”

“I always thought that as a disabled person I was cool, because difference is cool. Me and my friends were pioneers, going out in the street and playing wheelchair basketball, a sport no one knew about. In 2010 people had an idea about disability sport but didn’t know the characters. It was our job to tell the public who the stars were, give ’em nicknames like ‘the Weir-wolf’ and get them to fall in love with them.”

Although he’s mostly upbeat, Ade drops in a cautious note.

He says the lack of access to public transport “prevents disabled people from playing an active part in society” and the Government’s review of the welfare system “gave the impression that many people with disabilities are lazy, and created a ‘them and us’ mentality”.

It’s this last point that Tanni – the Paralympian who’s now making a name for herself in the Lords –   majors on in a hard-hitting interview with the Mirror.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson (Photo credit: NCVO)

She contrasts the feel good factor of last summer – “Which exceeded all expectations” –  with a hardening of attitudes to benefits claimants.

“I’ve lost track of the number of letters from disabled people who have been spat at in the street. Instead of the deserving and undeserving poor, we have got deserving and undeserving disabled people.”

“One letter I received described how a disabled person was in a bus queue and someone came up and started asking them how many thousands in benefits they were costing. This was a working disabled person who takes nothing in benefits.

“There is suddenly a massive ­mismatch between how Paralympians and everyone else with disabilities are viewed. The irony is that of course there are Paralympians who are losing benefits under welfare reforms.”

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