There are several salient points in Douglas’ blog, which is what this post is linked to, above. The first, of course, is: What is there to fill the gap? This being Wednesday, with not even the victory parade to draw on for headlines or for inspiration for my next blog post! I was struck by the way the media covered the Paralympic Games… struck by it, and also relieved, that ParalympicsGB, Channel 4, and LOCOG (Seb Coe) among others, had a Douglas says, delivered what had been promised. I thought though that newspaper focus on the games would die down, and it didn’t. I don’t read newspapers very widely; I tend to read the ‘i’ paper most days, glance at the BBC’s homepage, or follow up links to newspaper articles which have been tweeted about, most often on The Guardian.
This next one is a biggie for me: the two Games had become inextricably linked, not just by Locog, but in the public mind. This, for me, as a disabled person, is one of the greatest triumphs, that Paralympians became recognised as elite athletes were taken seriously of course, but also that people deemed it worth watching. Everywhere I went, people were full of it. Had I been watching it? What were my favourite sports, favourite athletes, because some people either knew I was interested in the games, or because part of my impairment is obvious. For those that don’t know me face-to-face, I travel in a whacking great big 10 stone+ electric wheelchair that needs a name! Wheelchair Athlete Hannah Cockroft’s chair is called Sally whereas mine is still a nameless wonder! Suggestions, anyone?!
My favourite question anyone asked me about the Games was, how does the endlessly complex classification system work? This is where I got to indulge my inner geek! For the most part, I’m interested in things that a lot of others are not, but this time, my extra-special-knowledge had a purpose. I could wax lyrical about the classification system to anyone who’d listen, or extol the virtues of Giles Long’s classification decoder called LEXI, sometimes by way of explaining it by describing what I reckon would be my own classification in swimming. What on earth am I going to talk to people about now the games are over? This is the case even with my carers. The games gave me something else to talk about that was neutral and also interesting. I had some interesting conversations with a few carers about the games, but mostly with the famous (or infamous?!) Carer B!
i voiced my cynicism to the common preconception (or mis-conception) that the Games has done anything to change the Great British Public’s attitude to disability and disabled people. However, as usual, Carer B was of a mind to disagree. She explained how fascinated one of her grandsons was by the Paralympic Games in particular, not really by the way the athletes looked, by was enthusiastic about every world record broken, every medal one, and talked about it and watched it all the time. This, Carer B told me, was evidence the Games had taught children of his generation lots about disability.
Again I scoffed, but she said, was was okay for me to be so blase, but that was because of my prior knowledge from my own experience, but that because it had to taught ordinary people about disability, this would in time change attitudes. Those of the generation it was most important to reach. The future policy-makes, movers and shakers, whose minds have yet to be tainted by any other common pre-games stereotypes of disabled people.
The Games also, she argued, provided hope to mothers who may have just given birth to disabled children, as it was proof that someone with cerebral palsy, Dwarfism (sorry, Anachondraplasia) or missing limbs could achieve, and those achievements were of just as much value as anyone else’s. For once, I had little to counter her argument with. Lets hope, that even in the longterm, especially in the long-term, she is proved right!