Category Archives: News and politics

Has the sector run out of steam?

From April disabled people – already struggling to make ends meet – will lose some £28 billion of financial support to help them with the extra costs of living in a world not designed for them.

This is on top of a squeeze in the support they receive from councils to do the basics such as getting up, getting dressed and getting washed.

Against this backdrop it’s no surprise that people are wondering what happened to the ‘Paralympics effect’.

It’s a bleak picture.

Where does this leave organisations like Scope and others, who exist to try and make this country a better place for disabled people?

Last year the Guardian’s David Brindle said that disability campaigners had come to a cross roads.

He suggested the Disability Movement – which has been leading the fight for equality for more than 40 years – might have run out of steam, having largely won the arguments for full civil rights and the right to live in the community, in principle if not yet in practice.

It feels like the right time to revisit this point.

I don’t agree that the Movement has run out steam. If anything, there is increased energy and drive.

For the first time in years disabled people have been taking to the streets. Campaigners such as the We Are Spartacus movement, Pat’s Petition andDisabled People Against Cuts, who use social media to connect, inspire and organise have re-invigorated campaigning.

The energy exists. For me the question is where to direct it?

The cuts are a natural galvanising point – some disabled people will be hit by six benefit cuts simultaneously – decimating their income and their life chances.

But it has to be about more than cuts. Disabled people have spent decades campaigning to be treated as citizens with rights and a contribution to make. The cuts agenda has revived the discredited deserving and undeserving poor labels that we rejected years ago and does nothing to advance disabled people’s citizenship.

At the same time it’s also too simplistic to say that we just need to build on the Paralympics effect. The Paralympics were a break-through moment – disabled people have never been so visible, disability has never been so openly discussed and celebrated. But we need to be asking how we can make all disabled people – not just gold medal-winning athletes and TV personalities – more visible and better understood.

One thing we do know is that we can’t change anything without working side-by side with colleagues in the Disability Movement, in Government, in Opposition and local government and the wider sector. It’s not always easy. At the heart of this has always been a healthy debate.

In this spirit I’d like to pose four questions. I’ll say upfront that I don’t have the answers. But I think it’s time to start the debate: #disabilitywhatnext?

  1. How do we make the general public care? A recent survey showed people’s support for disabled people receiving state support is dwindling. Disability is an increasingly common experience, it can happen to anyone, and with an ageing population, increasingly, it will. But it doesn’t resonate with the public. We can’t convince the Government to be more proactive and thoughtful if this issue doesn’t echo from their focus groups.
  2. How do we make politicians see disability as a pressing political issue? Disability is not a uniform experience, it affects people differently. The old distinctions between those who can work and can’t, those who need support and those who don’t, are no longer fit for purpose. As more and more people live with disability of some sort, our structures need to reflect this experience in a more sophisticated and personalised way. We can no longer afford to write off disabled people as scroungers or dependents with nothing to contribute.
  3. How can we mainstream the Paralympics effect? We saw a new openness when it comes to disability. People stopped walking on egg shells. They asked questions. They began to think differently. How do we build on this to lift the fear of talking about disability and creating spaces where honest but respectful conversations about bodies, minds and difference can happen?
  4. Despite the new voices the numbers of people who self-identify as disabled and are actively involved in advocating for improved life opportunities for disabled people remains small. There are 11 million disabled people in the UK. Where are they all? At a time when disabled people’s quality of life is threatened like never before, how can we do to get more people involved in the political debate?

To answer these questions we need to put aside old rivalries and come together, disabled and non-disabled allies alike, to forge a new vision of what life should look like for disabled people in 2013 and beyond. The consequences of not doing this don’t bear thinking about.

The hardest hit of the hardest hit

Guest post from Claudia Wood, Deputy Director of Demos

It has become clear, since as early as 2010, that radical cuts to welfare spending would be the centre-piece of the Government’s deficit reduction plan. The aim of reducing the benefits bill by £18 billion per year by 2014-15, was supplemented in 2012 by the announcement that a further £10 billion would be shaved off with a new round of reforms from 2017.

The impact of the Government’s plan to cut several benefits in several ways will – inevitably – affect some households repeatedly. The Government’s Impact Assessments only consider each cut in isolation, and cannot quantify this cumulative effect. And so the Government has identified dozens of individual groups who will experience a reduction in income, but has no idea if they are actually identifying the same group over and over again.

We are witnessing the most ambitious reform of the Welfare State since it was created – shouldn’t the Government have a way of assessing its impact which is fit for purpose? This is particularly important for groups most likely to be on the sharp end of multiple cuts. Disabled people, for example, rely on a variety of different benefits and services, few of which have escaped reform in the last three years.

Cuts: calculating the cumulative effect

Supported by Scope, Demos attempted a series of cumulative impact assessments based on the combined effect of 15 disability-benefit related cuts.

We were able to work out how many disabled people would be affected by each, and how much they would lose in monetary terms. We found, overall, that 3.7 million disabled people would experience some reduction of income, and, over the period to 2017 – when the next set of reforms are likely to be announced – they would lose £28 billion in benefits as a group.

That’s a big number, adding together several individual cuts. But of course, they aren’t spread equally. What happens to the hundreds of thousands of disabled people who we found would be subject to up to six welfare cuts simultaneously?

Number of disabled people affected Loss per person by 2018 Total loss as a group
Double whammy  88,000  £15,506  £1.3 billion
Triple whammy  26,600  £17,097 to £23,461  £6.2 billion
Triple whammy  93,366  £6,309  £589 million
Triple whammy  29,484  £18,100  £533 million
Triple whammy 264,600 £6,280 £1.66 billion
Quadruple whammy  16,768  £5,428  £113 million
Quintuple whammy  12,500  £11,517  £481 million
Sextuple whammy  3,000  £23,300  £23-£116 million

At the ‘lucky’ end of the scale, 88,000 people currently claiming contributory ESA (WRAG) will see a double whammy of having their benefit capped by 1% through the Benefit Uprating Bill, and time limited to 12 months. At the other end of the scale – a group we might call ‘the hardest hit of the hardest hit’ – at least 1,000 disabled people (up to 5,000) will experience six separate cuts to their benefits income before the next election. By the time the next round of cuts are due, they will be £23,300 worse off per person – this represents the loss of all benefits recognising their disability (ESA and DLA), and a substantial reduction in housing benefit.

In between these two poles lies the 120,000 who will experience some form of triple cut, and 99,000 who will have a quadruple cut. At best, these represent a loss of £6,309 per person by 2017. But for those unfortunate enough to lose their Disability Living Allowance early on, and who also claim contributory ESA (WRAG), the combined impact of these and the CPI and 1% uprating cap will be a £23,461 loss by 2017.

Disabled people’s spiralling costs of living

For anyone, these are substantial sums of money. But for disabled people struggling with spiralling costs of living, such financial losses are life-changing.

Yet they are also an underestimate. We didn’t include in our cumulative assessments many of the reforms we modelled individually – such as the freezing of child benefit (affecting one million disabled parents), nor the closure of the Independent Living Fund (21,000 disabled people), discretionary payments to the Social Fund (945,000 disabled people), the 10% cut to Council Tax Credit (1.38 million disabled people), or cutting of Local Housing Allowances for private tenants (827,000 disabled people).

We didn’t include these as we felt we were unable to quantify the exact combination of cuts using publicly available data – this is perhaps the ‘too hard’ bit the Government referred to. But the fact we were able to construct seven distinct cumulative combinations covering the primary disability benefits (DLA and ESA) and Housing Benefit, factoring in uprating, time limitations and implementation periods, using public data, suggests that a more comprehensive and ambitious analysis would not be beyond the capacity of the statisticians at DWP.

And it is critical that it is attempted. Individual Impact Assessments are all well and good when making a single policy change here and there, but when dozens of changes are underway simultaneously – 18 Impact Assessments were issued for the Welfare Reform Bill alone – this piecemeal approach is both inadequate and misleading.

Each Impact Assessment identifies a relatively small amount of money shared across a large group. On reading them, one might conclude that the cuts are being widely and fairly spread. But if we were to pile three, four, or more losses onto a single person – would we say the same? And yet this is the case for hundreds of thousands of people across the country. How can we judge the fairness of such a comprehensive package of cuts if we have no real overview over who will be affected, and to what extent?

Table 1 – the headline figures from our analysis (PDF)
Table 2 – how the changes are combining to produce a cumulative impact (PDF)
Table 3 – for more detail on how we calculated the total figures (PDF)

Why changes to DLA should put disabled people first, not targets

Guest post from Eugene Grant – Scope’s Public Policy Advisor on poverty and welfare.

In 2013, with the economy in recession, unemployment levels still high and wages flat-lining, times are tough for everyone. But disabled people in particular are struggling to make ends meet and the way ahead is hazardous and foreboding. Already disproportionately likely to live in poverty, be out of work or paid less than non-disabled people, disabled people are about to be hit from all sides by a barrage of cuts to much-needed welfare benefits and changes to social care services.

Among these, one of the biggest concerns for disabled people is the future of Disability Living Allowance (DLA). DLA is a life-line for millions for the simple reason that it costs more to live in our society as a disabled person. The little things so many of us do without thinking – like getting out into our communities, running errands or travelling to work – can be much more expensive – often prohibitively so – if you’re disabled. DLA helps people meet these extra costs. In fact, such is the impact of these costs on disabled people’s living standards that academics estimate that taking these into account when measuring poverty could put almost half of all disabled people in the UK below the breadline.

With this in mind, disabled people are understandably frightened by the government’s plans to bring DLA to an end and introduce a new benefit called the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the subject of tonight’s Dispatches on Channel 4. Come the new financial year and PIP is to be piloted in a select few areas; in June it will be rolled out for new claims only; in October those affected will include those whose current DLA award is due to expire around that time and thereafter. In 2015, everyone else receiving DLA will be told that their support is soon coming to an end and they will have to apply anew for PIP; they will not be moved across automatically. While the department for work and pensions (DWP) has launched an online toolkit showing people chronology of changes, lots of people are confused about how they will actually be affected when the reforms come into effect.

The government’s aim of creating a better targeted benefit through PIP is laudable, but what we and many disabled people are really worried about is that the assessment with which the government wants to re-test almost two million disabled people is not fit for purpose. As our past research shows and as we’ve said before, this is because it doesn’t take into account the range of practical and social barriers that disabled people face in daily life. We’re anxious because the government is set to get rid of the low rate of DLA care and that, under the new system, disabled people who might have less visible impairments but still face real barriers to living full and independent lives will lose out.

But most concerning is that the government is already predicting how many disabled people will receive support before PIP has even been rolled-out. As a result of introducing PIP, the department for work and pensions reckon more than half a million people who would’ve have received support now won’t get it. For us and disabled people across the country, this raises alarming questions as to whether the government is working to predetermined targets instead of what’s best for disabled people and their families. It looks set to repeat past mistakes it made with the much-derided Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

The government has to make some difficult decisions in terms of the country’s finances; but, at the same time, some people need benefits. They aren’t feckless, they aren’t scroungers; they just need a bit more support to live the full and independent lives that so many of us take for granted. If the government is really serious about leaving a lasting legacy after the Paralympics – one in which disabled people can fulfil their potential – then they urgently need to reconsider their approach to welfare.

Lords debate support for BME disabled people

The research team here at Scope has been working with the Equalities National Council (ENC) – a charity run by and working with black and minority ethnic (BME) disabled people – to find out about the lives of BME disabled people, and to find ways they can be better supported.

Our research findings – published last year – were shocking:

  • There are at least one million disabled people from BME background in the UK and this figure is growing.
  • One in two BME disabled people live in poverty.
  • Only two in every five BME disabled people have a job.

Last week the House of Lords recognised the importance of this work, and held a two and a half hour debate on the report. The debate was tabled by the former Minister for Disabled People, Lord Paul Boateng.

The challenges BME disabled people face

The debate gave lifted the lid on the challenges BME disabled people face. Over 15 Peers spoke powerfully and movingly about issues ranging from the importance of translation services for BME disabled people, to the need to fix the social care system so that everyone who needs care and support can get it.

Many of the Lords echoed our recommendations. Scope and ENC found that many disabled people are falling between the cracks of Government departments – an issue that the Government Minister Baroness Browning argued needed to be resolved.

Disabled children from BME communities experience deep and saddening barriers to the support they need. Baroness Tyler recognised this in her contribution to the debate, and asked the Government to consider the recommendation of Scope’s Keep Us Close campaign to ensure that BME disabled people can access the right services in their local area.

Our report also found that the best way to provide services is to support small, user-led organisations like ENC to provide local services, a point Lord Addington made in his speech.
Although the debate successfully raised awareness of the challenges BME disabled people face, it is important to recognise that this is just the first step in a longer journey of change for this often overlooked community.

In the words of Lord Boateng, when introducing the debate: “To be black, a member of an ethnic minority or disabled is to know what it is to be invisible – to be there but somehow not be seen, or to be heard but simply not heeded.

“You suffer a double whammy of neglect and disadvantage. All too often you find yourself between a rock and a hard place.

“When we take action to enable and empower all of us in our God-given and precious diversity, then we really will have something to celebrate.”

You can find a transcript of the full debate in the Lords here.

The Bill of Rights Commission’s final report misses the point

It’s been a long wait, but the much anticipated report by the Bill of Rights Commission has finally seen the light of the day.

The strength of feeling of support for preserving existing levels of human rights protection is something that the Commission will have heard loud and clear, at least if one is to judge by the responses to its consultation exercises. There has been an unequivocal call from disabled people as well as many other groups not to erode the crucial safety net provided by the Human Rights Act (HRA).

It can only be welcomed then that the Commission’s report – though otherwise largely mired in differences of positions between the various members on the Commission – stresses that there should be “no less protection” than is currently contained in the HRA. However, the prospects of a different language being used in a future Bill of Rights does raise at least some doubts of how this will be achieved in practice.

UK Bill of Rights

More important is, however, what the report identifies as being the need for change. This would appear to mostly come from the need for a rebranding exercise insomuch as a UK Bill of Rights is seen to provide a way to bring about a greater sense of ownership among the public. The majority of the Commission appears to believe that given the polarised nature of the debate, it is unlikely that “public perceptions are likely to change in any substantial way” through public education.

If we were to go down this route, repackaging the Human Rights Act as a UK Bill of Rights would not only be potentially dangerous as it would risk diluting current protection, but also amount to a missed opportunity. Disabled people have been clear that consideration of a Bill of Rights need a discussion about how best to progress protection further and how to afford greater recognition to the rights contained in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

On that count, the Commission’s report fails to deliver. Both the Government’s disability strategy and disabled people agree that the UN Convention needs to be at the heart of reforms moving forwards. In considering the future of our human rights laws, the Government should recognise that rather than an exercise about mere cosmetic re-branding, the prospects of developing a Bill of Rights should be driven by a need to look where additional protections could be brought in, and set a path towards incorporation of internationally recognised standards into domestic law.

UK Disability History Month

It was really pleasing to see that nearly 50 MPs signed an Early Day Motion supporting the launch of UK Disability History Month.

At a time when, quite rightly, MPs and disability organisations were focussing on the cost-cutting present, it’s worth remembering that history is important – it’s what makes us who we are, and there are many lessons we can learn from the past.

It’s also important that children today learn that the way disabled people are perceived has changed enormously within living memory. That’s not to say there isn’t ignorance and prejudice (in some so-called comedy, for example) but now disabled kids can see themselves in storybooks and can watch cool role models like Ade Adepitan and Cerrie Burnell on TV.

If disabled people are not visible in the community, the result is that nearly 40% of people (who are not disabled and do not have a disabled family member) don’t know any disabled people.

History and disabled people

And it’s the same with history. I have always felt passionately that history belongs to the people so I was glad that I could work with disabled journalist Chris Davies for Scope’s 50th anniversary to ensure that disabled people’s voices were at the forefront of his book, Changing Society.

One of the people we interviewed was the first disabled trustee and employee of Scope was Bill Hargreaves. Bill had been trying to publish his truly remarkable life story for years but couldn’t find a publisher. I promised him I’d get it into print, but sadly he died before I could – you can read Bill’s story in Can You Manage Stares?

I was pleased to lobby successfully for the inclusion of Bill as the third person with cerebral palsy in the Dictionary of National Biography, after the emperor Claudius (possibly) and Christy Brown, the author of My Left Foot.

Speaking for Ourselves

This got me thinking about who else was being ignored by history? That’s why I set up Scope’s pioneering oral history project, Speaking for Ourselves, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Sixteen disabled volunteers recorded 36 life-stories of people with cerebral palsy over 50. These 234 hours of recorded testimonies are at the British Library Sound Archive.

Our DVD teaching pack was launched in May 2006 and already there have been over 3,500 requests for packs from schools, colleges, local authorities and disability trainers throughout the UK.

As one of our volunteers said, ”Speaking for Ourselves is an exciting and valuable project. Why? Because disabled people are not included in social history. As a disabled woman with cerebral palsy, this opportunity to record our history is long overdue.”

UK Disability History Month is also long overdue; long may it continue!

All of the interviews for Speaking for Ourselves are available to researchers and the general public at the British Library Sound Archive.

The paralympic legacy

Guest post from Matt O’Grady at Scope Cymru

The last few weeks have been a real festival of sport. It seems like an age ago that Team GB kicked off against New Zealand in the Women’s Football in Cardiff and no-one could have imagined how exciting both the Olympic games and Paralympic games have been.

What was even harder to imagine perhaps before the game is just how much support the disabled athletes of the Paralympic games would receive. It has been fantastic, with the public seeming to grasp the opportunity to watch the highs (and occasional lows) of those who truly excel at their events. I was lucky enough to be in the stadium the night David Weir won gold in the 5,000 metres and Oscar Pistorius was beaten by Alan Oliveira. The support for athletes in those competitions was as passionate and fierce as any other sporting event I’ve been to.

The impact of the Paralympics

Before the start of the games, Scope said that for the games to have an impact the general public had to engage with them. Polling showed before the games that an estimated 67% of people intended to watch the Paralympic games.

The Opening Ceremony gave Channel 4 its biggest audience for 10 years. For two weeks disabled people have been everywhere. The focus has been on sport, but disability has never been so widely talked about.

And the fact that these games were virtually a sell-out makes it clear that there really was great public engagement.

But what should the public take away from the Paralympics? There can be no doubt that the games were a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the country reconsidering disability.

Attitudes towards disabled people

Prior to the Games, disabled people told Scope that attitudes towards them have been getting worse. More than two-thirds say they have experienced name-calling, hostility or aggression and half say this has gotten worse in the last year.

When those we have spoken to are asked why they think this happened, many think that it is linked to the issue of benefits and a perception that disabled people are ‘scroungers’ and ‘faking it’. Given that the Westminster Government’s own figures show a fraud rate of only 0.5% with Disability Living Allowance, it is concerning that such negative rhetoric is able to take root.

Hopefully, the stories told at the Paralympic games will begin a shift in the public perception of disabled people away from this ‘scrounger’ image and towards a more positive vision. An image that focuses on what disabled people can achieve and doesn’t set limits on potential, regardless of the challenges.

Much was made about challenges in the Paralympic games. I heard so many people say how the achievements of disabled athletes were so impressive because of the challenges they had to overcome.

Barriers to disabled people still exist

There can be little doubt that these challenges and barriers do exist. Whether it is access to wheelchairs (opens a PDF report)railways (opens a PDF report) or even elections (opens a PDF report), there are still many access barriers around.

For the Paralympic games to have truly achieved a lasting legacy, the games need to have created a shift in attitudes that means these barriers are not seen as acceptable any more and begin to be broken down. We also need to ask what else we can do, so that disabled people are visible not just in sport, but in the media, in politics, and above all in everyday life.

This legacy is one that the Welsh Conservatives, along with other political parties in Wales and the Welsh Government, have a role to play. With legislation reforming both social care and special education needs on the agenda for the next 12 months, we have an ideal opportunities to ensure that every disabled person has fewer challenges to face in their ordinary lives.

If the 2012 Paralympic Games are able to leave a desire for social change as their legacy, they will be the most successful games of all time.

Originally posted on Your Voice in the Assembly.

Inspiration without condescension

Guest post from Nick who blogs as Marzipanman. You can also follow him on Twitter.

A week or so before the Paralympic Games started, comedian Laurence Clark wrote in The Guardian:

“I came to realise that the less fortunate you are perceived to be, the less you have to achieve before you’re labelled ‘inspiring’. It was a polite way of people telling me they thought I probably wouldn’t amount to much, but had somehow surpassed their low expectations.”

When I first read this I thought it made perfect sense. After all, what frame of reference do I have on which to base any kind of disagreement? I could see his argument – why should his achievements (or otherwise) be considered any more inspiring than anyone else’s, just because he happens to be disabled?

But then the Games started and something unexpected happened – I started to disagree with Laurence, for a very specific reason.

My daughter Robyn

Robyn was born two years ago, the younger of twins and eight weeks premature. Two days after she was born we were told that she had experienced a severe bleed in her brain before, during or after her birth and that this was likely to cause her permanent damage. We were told that the prognosis was not particularly good.

Happily, Robyn is developing well, far better than that early prognosis. She’s not walking yet and has limited mobility down her left side, but thanks to support from NHS professionals and an undoubted strength of character she is shuffling around on her bottom, developing her vocabulary and generally taking over the household!

That said, I worry about her. From the moment we were told Robyn would probably have some form of disability, most likely cerebral palsy, I pictured her in a wheelchair, maybe learning disabled, maybe unable to ever live independently. I didn’t want to read about the condition or its effects because I was scared about what lay in store for my daughter.

And you know what? I felt sorry for her. I know that’s not the right thing – but it’s how I felt. She’s my daughter, and I want the best for her – and with the best politically correct will in the world, being disabled doesn’t necessarily fit in with that.

The Paralympics

During the Paralympics I’ve been watching athletes, swimmers, footballers, rowers and other Paralympic competitors, and I’ve paid particular attention to those with cerebral palsy. And you know what? They’re sensational. And not just in a “hasn’t she done well for a disabled person?” way, they’re just sensational.

Hannah Cockcroft has cerebral palsy as a result of two cardiac arrests at birth. Her parents were told that she would never be able to walk, talk or do anything for herself or live past her teenage years. On 31 August she won GB’s first track and field gold medal of the 2012 Paralympic Games in the T34 100 metres race with a Paralympic record time of 18.05 seconds.

Hannah Cockcroft, Olivia Breen, Sophia Warner and others are inspirational to me, and no doubt to parents across the country, because they remind me to look beyond the disability and the struggles that our children will no doubt have, to the chance – no, the likelihood – that they will have lives where they can fulfil their ambitions, whether that’s to be a champion sportsperson, to have a successful career or a great education, to get married and have children or even be a stand-up comedian.

Changing attitudes

I think the London 2012 Paralympic Games has done more for the public perception of disability in this country than any number of well-meaning campaigns or training courses ever could – this is especially timely given the current government’s clear agenda to stigmatise disabled people as benefits scroungers or burdens on the economy.

And it’s also done something for me. It’s made me positive for Robyn’s future. I’ve always seen what a fighter, what a character, what a person she is (and what a pain in the arse she can be as well) but now I have far more confidence that other people will see the same things as well.

Inspirational? Oh, go on then.

Sorry, Laurence.

 

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!