A view of Rio's coastline

Do the Paralympics have the power to improve attitudes to disability?

With just days before the action kicks off in Rio, we’re publishing the findings of a new poll which asked disabled people whether the Paralympics can change attitudes to disability and asked what life is like if you’re disabled in 2016.

Our new research shows disabled people overwhelmingly believe the Games are an opportunity to change perceptions of disability.

We surveyed over 1000 disabled people and more than three quarters (78%) say the Paralympics improve attitudes and four in five (82%) say the Games change negative assumptions to disability.

We know London 2012 achieved this and more by increasing the visibility of disabled people and celebrating Paralympians as sporting equals.

So it’s been incredibly disappointing to hear reports from Rio that the Paralympics are subject to budget cuts and athletes face competing in near-empty stadiums.

We hope the organisers can address these issues and ensure the Games are a success.

What’s happening in Rio, including suggestions that money intended for the Paralympics was spent on renovations to the Olympic village, shows there’s still a long way to go in changing attitudes to disabled people.

A closer look at the polling

As a closer look at our new polling shows, the long-term positive impact of the Paralympics is far less certain. Four years on from the huge success of London 2012 disabled people continue to face negative attitudes.

Just one fifth (19%) of disabled people think Britain is a better place to be disabled than four years ago.

The stats show little or no improvement across key areas of disabled people’s everyday lives:

Text reads: 82% of disabled people believe the Paralympics make disabled people more visible in wider society
82% of disabled people believe the Paralympics make disabled people more visible in wider society
Text reads: 78% of disabled people say the Paralympics have a positive impact on attitudes to disability
78% of disabled people say the Paralympics have a positive impact on attitudes to disability
Text reads: Less than a quarter think that the accessibility of pubs, restaurants, clubs and shops has improved (23%), or transport (21%)
Less than a quarter think that the accessibility of pubs, restaurants, clubs and shops has improved (23%), or transport (21%)
Text reads: Nearly 80% of disabled people say there has been no change in the way people act towards them
Nearly 80% of disabled people say there has been no change in the way people act towards them
Text reads: Disabled people continue to face huge barriers to work with just 15% saying employer attitudes have improved since London 2012.
Disabled people continue to face huge barriers to work with just 15% saying employer attitudes have improved since London 2012.
Text reads: Just one fifth (19%) of disabled people think Britain is a better place to be disabled than four years ago
Just one fifth (19%) of disabled people think Britain is a better place to be disabled than four years ago

You can’t change attitudes in a fortnight

Through campaigns like End the Awkward, and by sending disabled role models into schools to talk about their experiences and training the next generation of disabled campaigners, we’re working to improve understanding of disability across society.

We’re working with government to ensure that the support and opportunities are available to enable disabled people to fulfil their aspirations.

To create lasting change, disabled people must be more visible in the media and in public life. Not just every four years, but all of the time.