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.
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.