Two stories, one theme: Disability

Two disability stories were prominent on BBC Breafast this morning. One, concerned with the creation of disability; strokes occurring in people under 65, all because BCC’s Andrew Marr has had a stroke; and the other that there has been no noticeable take up by disabled people in Paralympic sport after the games. Neither, perhaps is a surprise. 

Discussing Disability: Strokes

Firstly, strokes in people under 65. A dear friend has recently had a stroke, and her Facebook updates continue to amaze me, make me laugh, or make me write something in empathy or encouragement. What stokes have in common with Cerebral Palsy (CP) which I have, is that both result from damage to the brain, meaning that each person is affected differently depending which part or parts of the brain are damaged. This why discerning if people are ‘disabled enough’ to claim benefits or not. It is also why it is hard to gauge how well people ‘recover’, or regain ‘normal’ functioning from strokes. If you would like to read more on why healthy people have strokes, the Beeb have written a feature about it

Disability Sport and the Paralympics: what legacy?

The second story is concerned with disability sport in this post Paralympics era, and comes as no surprise at all to me. Nine in ten clubs saw no noticeable take up in their sport after the Paralympics.The reasons for this are many  and varied. The first comes from disabled people themselves, as pointed out in the BBC’s coverage; you are half as like to participate in sport at all if you are disabled, and if you can find a club near you which can meet you access needs you still need to be able to afford to get there, and have a way of getting there in the first place. Given the squeeze on people’s finances in general, and for disabled people in particular due to benefit ‘reform’, in my opinion this will become more and more unlikely. Of course, the head honchos disagree in terms of take up of participation as Tim Hollingworth argued on BCC Breakfast this morning that due to the success of Paralympics GB’s ‘Parasport’ and specific programs designed to ‘fast-track people to elite level disability sport. He also says that there have been clubs setting up from scratch in the post popular sports such as wheelchair rugby; However, this seems to be masking the real picture. I have pointed out before how the main men are hiding under the success of the games themselves. If you’d like to hear more on legacy, here’s an audio from Discuss winner, John Harris.

At a personal level, why do I not take part in more sport?

I go horse-riding once a week at best, thanks to the generosity of a local social enterprise, and absolutely love it, even in rain or the freezing. I have blogged about the horses before. However. to go horse-riding more often, I would have to go all the way to Middleton, to specialist Riding for the Disabled provision. They have much better facilities, according to someone I met by chance at the social enterprise’s last open day. However, as I cannot afford the taxi fares to get there, and would not have the care time nor the drivers for a notability vehicle. I have no way of getting there, or support while i am there, if anything was to happen to The Bag. 

The second sport I participate in is more mainstream. I have a gym membership that I rarely use. Some of the time this is simply because there are other things to do with my time. The other reason is that I often do not have the energy and therefore need to decide when I realy am to tired and whether I could manage it if I were pushed. I am not able to manage weights machines and things like that, more along the lines of gentle exercise  sometimes swimming, using three machines in the gym, and the toning chairs. However, I am unable to get there on my own because I cannot manage my manual chair; and there are so many difficulties with transport with my electric wheelchair. I am also unable to transfer safely onto machines in the gym without help, and this is often also true for the toning chairs as well.

‘Dave’s’ speech, (1)

Dave’s speech, and the ‘legacy’ of the Paralympics

David Cameron’s closing speech to the conservative party conference has already been talked of and analysed a great deal. I would like to chip in my pennyworth. I started to write about two of the main subjects of David Cameron’s (‘Dave’ to you and me) closing speech to the Conservative Party Conference: The ‘legacy of Paralympics; and something called ‘Compassionate Conservatism’. However, there was so much to discuss I have split it into two posts.

 

‘see the boy, not the wheelchair’

Regarding what Cameron had to say about disabled people and the much talked of ‘legacy’ of the Paralympics,  he talked of both sporting achievement and the change the games made to how disabled people in this country are viewed. To illustrate the latter, he talked of his late son, Ivan and how [he] “always thought that some people saw the wheelchair not the boy. Today more people would see the boy and not the wheelchair, and that’s because of what happened here this summer”.

Others including those who were responsible for bring the games into being shared Cameron’s view. “Paralympic organisers hailed “the seismic effect in shifting public attitudes” to disability sports claiming the Games had changed public perception of disabled people forever”. (The Independent – 14th September 2012) I agree with Cameron to an extent, but not with the sweeping statement from the organising committee!

The Paralympics did indeed change some people’s attitude to disability, and disabled people, especially the younger generation, which I wrote about a few months ago. It makes for an interesting read, and shows that there is hope you the future, if the legacy is handled correctly, but really, have we seen much evidence of that so far? The general public’s view of disabled people may have changed superficially, but a lot more work needs to be done.

 

‘Hate crime’ and the Paralympics

In an article in the Independent from the 14th September 2012 talking about the link between a dramatic rise in hate crimes against disabled people, Scope, a charity working with and for disabled people said:

“Our polling has shown that attitudes towards disabled people have deteriorated over recent years and that many disabled people experience harassment, hostility and abuse on a regular basis. We know if unchallenged these low-level incidents can often escalate into more serious crimes. “

There is a clear disparity here between perception and reality. Until Cameron can be more realistic about the reality of what disabled people face in their everyday lives, little is likely to change.

In the same speech, Cameron talked about how the Paralympics enabled people to dream of achieving things in sport and to be Paralympians. However, this is not realistic for the majority of disabled people.  As far as I’m concerned,, some of it was rhetoric designed to justify budget cuts. It’s like saying, if the Paralympians are achieve great things, then so can most other disabled people, therefore anyone who doesn’t is not trying hard enough, therefore, if you don’t try harder to achieve, your benefits will be cut. For me, some days just being up, dressed and medicated is an ‘achievement’ in itself, and the effort of which can and does send me back to sleep. This happens despite having carer’s help to do all these things.

Also, when he talking about how their should not be any barriers to achievement, and named a number of groups of marginalised people, and said none of these groups should be stopped from achieving, but he did not include disabled people when claiming the Conservatives were the people’s party!

“My mission since the day I become [Toy] leader was to show the Conservative Party is for everyone: north or south, black or white, straight or gay”

As with the public’s attitude to disabled people, more work is needed before disabled people have the same opportunities as others, and would then be free to ‘aspire; to whatever they wanted to, including Paralympic sport!