Tag Archives: Channel 4

“As a disabled person, you don’t have to be an athlete to be superhuman”

Kim Daybell is a Paralympic table tennis player and is studying medicine at the University of Leeds. He represented ParalympicsGB at the London 2012 Paralympics.

We spoke to Kim about London 2012, attitudes towards disability and Channel 4’s flagship Paralympics trailer.

Competing in London has been the highlight of my career so far and it’s been amazing to see a change in attitudes towards the Paralympic Games over the last few years.

London helped break down a lot of barriers, it challenged people’s perceptions and showed the public that disability isn’t something to be scared of.

Instead of people seeing Paralympians as disabled people, we started to be viewed as athletes. I think the focus is becoming less about disability and more about seeing us for who we are and what we are achieving.

Kim, a young disabled men, competes in a table tennis tournament

Channel 4 did such a great build up and coverage of the games people were suddenly realising that we can really compete. I think shows like The Last Leg have definitely helped reduce some of the stigma too.

London’s legacy has also helped to bridge the gap between the Olympics and the Paralympics. Before 2012, Paralympians weren’t really in the public eye and we didn’t get a lot of media coverage.

Now athletes have become household names, people like Ellie Simmonds, Johnny Peacock and Richard Whitehead have become just as big as some Olympians. Paralympic athletes have been in the shadow of Olympic athletes for so long, it’s good to see that starting to change.

The games becoming more mainstream has also encouraged young disabled people to get into sport. Since London, kids are now being given more opportunities because we’ve had a lot of money put in at a grass roots level. Our squad now has a pathway program and we have someone who goes around and looks for young talent to bring in. Initiatives like this have meant we’ve seen many more disabled people playing sport.

We’re all superhumans

Recently I featured in Channel 4’s trailer for the Paralympic Games, it was a great experience and I was really pleased with how it turned out. I know there has been some controversy around the advert, specifically around the ‘superhuman’ theme. I have seen the term be interpreted in different ways, but to me it just describes disabled people who are doing things above and beyond what non-disabled people can do.

Access an audio described version of the advert.

Some people have said it comes across as a bit patronising, but I don’t see it like that. I think the people in the advert are great role models and great examples for disabled people out there.

However, that doesn’t mean that as a disabled person you have to fly a car with your feet or be an athlete to be superhuman. A superhuman achievement could be anything from completing a university degree to going shopping, it doesn’t just apply to Paralympians. To me, it represents the idea that disabled people can go out and do anything they set their mind to.

I think that’s why they chose to feature disabled people who aren’t athletes in this campaign. The superhuman concept is inclusive, it encompasses all disabled people who are doing amazing things and the advert celebrates this.

People have also questioned why the Paralympics are marketed differently to the Olympics, but I don’t see this as a negative thing. It is to be expected because they are completely different things. They’re separate sporting events and separate organisations, so it makes sense that the marketing isn’t the same.

There is nothing you cannot do

I’d encourage disabled people who are interested in sport to embrace the opportunities that are now available to them. Look online for what’s available in your area, sports clubs are now catering for disabled athletes more than ever. ParalympicsGB are always looking for talent, they’re willing to take on anyone who wants to give it everything they’ve got.

Having been on the Paralympic scene for a while now, I honestly believe there is nothing you cannot do. I’ve seen some truly amazing things, we’ve got a guy in our squad who hasn’t got hands who plays table tennis. Anything can be achieved if you set your mind to it.

You can follow Kim on his Paralympic journey on Twitter.

Find out more about ParalympicsGB on their website.

Channel 4 films take awkwardness to a new level #EndTheAwkward

We’ve been working in collaboration with Channel 4 to produce a series of short films for our End The Awkward campaign. As Scope’s Chair Andrew McDonald  explains in this post, “they take ‘awkwardness’ to a new level.”

Seated man smiling
Andrew McDonald, Chair of Scope

You might recognise the moment. You meet a disabled person in an everyday situation.

You want to be friendly and helpful. But you don’t know how. And so you shy away from the interaction. Or you panic and end up causing embarrassment to yourself and the disabled person. The last thing you wanted to do.

As we bring back our End the Awkward campaign this year, we wanted to address these situations – and the attitudes which give rise to them. Our polling evidence is clear; surprisingly few of us knowingly engage with disabled people.

The message of the campaign is straight forward; the more of us who know disabled people, the less likely we are to be awkward. There is no single right answer on how best to act around our disabled neighbours or colleagues. The most important thing is to be willing to try, to learn and not to shy away.

We launched our End the Awkward campaign last year. It featured the star of Channel 4’s The Last Leg, Alex Brooker – and it made a real impact, reaching more than 20 million people.

This June we began sharing disabled people’s ‘awkward stories’ on our blog and in the media. On 6 July we marked International Kissing Day (no, I didn’t know about it either) by showing a short film demonstrating that, disabled or not, our desires and needs are the same. I thought it was a work of beauty. No exaggeration.

A new phase of the campaign

Today, the campaign enters a new phase. We are launching a new series of short films we have made in partnership with Channel 4. They take ‘awkwardness’ to a new level. I won’t spoil the set–up but all I will say is they are very funny – and each of the shorts are based on real situations that have happened to disabled people.

Take a look at the short films and share them with your friends and family on social media.

The campaign has been worked up after research with a wide range of disabled people – from across the country, old and young,  with a wide range of impairments.

Some of them have chosen to share their stories on our blog; click on the links to read about the experiences of Marie, Emily and Ronnie.

And if you have an ‘awkward’ story of your own, share you story with us on our website or email stories@scope.org.uk.

Together, let’s end the awkward.

People like me should have a voice #BornRisky

Guest post from Kate Caryer. Kate is one of five people with communication difficulties who have joined Channel 4’s continuity team this December, to introduce some of the channel’s biggest shows.

Along with brain surgery, bar maiding and ballet dancing, continuity announcing was a career I had never considered suitable for me, as a person with athetoid cerebral palsy and no speech.   However, along with four colleagues-turned-mates, each with different communication impairments, I’ve joined Channel 4’s continuity announcers for 10 days in December!

To get some idea what I am on about, watch me here introducing my all time favourite show, The Simpsons:

I am on a mission to tell the world that people like me should have a voice! Being a continuity announcer fits right in with this aim I think!

So how did the Channel 4 thing come up? Well, I entered a singing competition!!!

As I can’t speak, let alone sing, I was told to go away!  So I decided to give this continuity announcing lark a try!  (Only joking.)

Actually what occurred is that the clever minds who came up with the idea of having voices from people with different communication difficulties announcing their peak-time shows, contacted organisations and charities that work with such people. This included Communication Matters, which is an organisation that is about AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) – or other means of communicating for people without clear speech. They share my passion for greater awareness of communication aids and non-speech communication.

The chairwoman contacted me about this possible opportunity and I absolutely loved the concept!!  (I would love the idea even if I wasn’t involved!)  

I was asked to do a screen test at Channel 4 in September which was really exciting! Due to the uncertainty of the project (at this stage, it was just a good idea) I was sworn to secrecy.   I wanted to tell absolutely everyone, especially the people at the Communication Matters conference in September that I attended just a matter of days before I went to Channel 4 for the first time!

By coincidence, at that Conference I delivered a presentation and discussion on the media portrayal of AAC users.  Like most disability media portrayal (Paralympics excepted – thank you Channel 4) it is often pretty dire and full of pity for the so-called ‘victims’ of impairment.  It was agreed that AAC users should be shown in the media doing things other than simply being an AAC user.

This is exactly what Channel 4 is hoping to achieve with this project when they say, “we want to give them a platform and normalise the presence of disabled people on TV by adding fresh, representative voices to the rich diversity of our existing pool of announcers.”

I have no speech at all so I use a communication aid called a Pathfinder.  I am lucky I am able to use a keyboard to work a special programme that uses icons to speed up communication. However there are many communication aids meeting the needs of most people who can’t speak, whatever the level of their physical skill. That I use a communication aid has become a matter of fact to me, my family and friends. What is interesting is how unknown people react to me using, what seems to them, a magic box.  I must say the reactions have been odd, not down-right negative fortunately, like when I go to quiz nights everyone wants to be on my team because they assume my communication aid can magically get all the right answers!!

The great thing about Channel 4 is that we were treated like any continuity announcer, so we wrote our own scripts; hence you would hear our own voices, albeit mine with some fantastic tweaks from the Wonderful Wendy who worked as hard as me programming my communication aid to sound fantastic!

The Wonderful Wendy is one of my partners on the Unspoken Project, a theatre project where the issue of communication is at the centre. This is important because, like television and other media, we think the world of drama rarely gives voice to people with communication difficulties and we want to change this. We hope to do this by a number of ways.

One of our plans is to produce a play where the main voice is from a young woman who has no speech. We want to tell the unspoken story of her getting a voice and coming of age. At the moment we are holding variety nights on 25 January and 18 March at Tottenham Chances, 399 High Road, London, N17 6QN. Entry is £7. All proceeds will go towards the Unspoken theatre project.

The nights put all kinds of voices in the limelight. If you would love to perform on one of our nights, we would be delighted to hear from you! Also we are always looking for audience members to come to our January and March shows.  You can contact us by e-mail unspokenprojectaac@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook – watch this space for our website!

Government reports on Paralympics legacy

Paralympic Opening Ceremony
Paralympic Opening Ceremony (Photo credit: MegMoggington)

The Government has today published its assessment of the financial and social impact of London 2012.

The £9.9bn boost for the economy has grabbed the headlines.

But the report also looks at Paralympics legacy.

The Government previously outlined the three things it wanted the Games to do: change attitudes and improve participation in sport and community engagement.

The report says in big letters: “The Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”

David Weir
David Weir (Photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

But the Telegraph spots a note of caution in the detail: “While the Paralympics improved public attitudes to disabled people, this has been undermined by the debate over the government’s welfare reforms, the evaluation suggested.”

Meanwhile the Sun asked Paralympian David Weir what difference the Games made to his life. “I live in the same council house with three kids,” he said.

These concerns echo points made by Scope Chief Executive Richard Hawkes in the Independent yesterday: “If the Government really wants to honour the legacy of the Paralympics and change things for the better, it has got to stop fuelling that narrative and demonising benefits claimants… you can’t have the Paralympics every day. But we should aspire to make the atmosphere of positivity towards disability a part of everyday life”.

Over the next couple of weeks Scope will be bringing together disabled people to say what they think about the Paralympics Effect. Watch this space.

So what exactly does the report say about the impact of 2012 on disabled people?

Here are the key points

The report says the Games “were a unique opportunity for sharing positive messages about disabled people, which led to an up-swell in positive public attitudes and perceptions of disabled people”.

There are some good stats on Channel 4’s coverage:

“More than 500 hours of coverage were broadcast across all platforms, 350 hours over the stated target and four times more than from the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. It included 16 hours of live coverage every day and 1.3 million live streams online. The coverage reached an unprecedented share of the audience, and achieved record viewing figures. Almost 40 million people – more than two thirds of the UK population – viewed the Paralympic Games on TV.[1] Overall, 25% of all TV viewers watched Channel 4’s coverage every day. Peak viewing levels reached 11.6 million for the opening ceremony – Channel 4’s biggest audience in more than a decade – and 6.3 million watched Jonnie Peacock win Gold in the T44 100m, the largest rating for a single Paralympic event. Channel 4 also ensured that 50% of on-screen talent for Paralympic broadcasts were disabled people.”

A name-check for Scope research:

“Research by the disability charity Scope found that 62% of disabled people believed the Paralympics could improve attitudes towards disabled people. Independent media analysis showed a major improvement in the way disability was covered in the press in the year of the Paralympics, with a peak in the level of coverage of disabled people which used positive and empowering terminology.”

But the report offers a bit of reality check too:

“How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable. Stakeholders broadly agreed that the improvement in attitudes was at risk of being a relatively short-term improvement and that developments and press coverage since the end of the Games, especially in early 2013 around the context of benefit reform, had affected public perceptions. Encouragingly, rolling survey evidence still being collected[2] shows that even by March 2013 a quarter of people were still saying that the Paralympic Games caused them to have a ‘much more positive view’ of disabled people.”

It then looks at volunteering:

“The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

And sport:

“Participation in sport and recreational activity[3] by disabled people also increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06. This was in part driven by legacy programmes such as the Inclusive Sport Fund, which is investing over £10 million of National Lottery funding into projects designed to increase the number of disabled young people and adults regularly playing sport, along with opportunities offered by the School Games, Sportivate, Inspire projects and Legacy Trust UK. The School Games national event in May 2012 in the Olympic Park involved 167 disabled athletes (11.6% of the total) and all the facilities in the Olympic Park have been designed to be accessible to disabled participants and attendees.”


[1] Channel 4 (2012) The London 2012 Games. Brought to you by Channel 4. Based on three minute reach of TV coverage over duration of the Paralympic Games.

[2] Games-related questions commissioned by Department for Work and Pensions were asked in five waves of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from November 2012 to March 2013.

[3] Based on 1×30 minutes of moderate intensity sport in the last week including recreational cycling and walking as measured by Taking Part.