Hopes may be short-lived, finds disabled people’s charity
Just two months on from the opening ceremony of the London Paralympics, a new survey of disabled people and carers has found that the Paralympic legacy may not be as far-reaching as hoped.
In a survey by national disabled people’s charity Revitalise, over half (54%) of the respondents thought that the public did not have a better understanding of the day to day lives of people with disabilities as a result of the Paralympics.
The findings have cast clear doubts on whether any profound change in the public’s perception of the reality of disability has occurred.
Even though 82% of the disabled people and carers surveyed felt that the public was more aware and open-minded towards them as a result of the Paralympics, 40% expressed worries that any positive change would just be temporary.
The survey was conducted in September and early October 2012 among the disabled people and carers who have taken much-needed respite breaks with Revitalise. Two thirds (65%) of the respondents were disabled people.
In the light of the findings, Revitalise is urging society as a whole to help sustain the Paralympic legacy by engaging with the day to day lives of disabled people and helping them play a much more significant role in society.
Revitalise Chief Executive, Chris Simmonds, said:
“The London Paralympics has helped society view disability in a much more positive light, but the feel good factor may not last forever, and our survey has highlighted the concerns of disabled people that they will fade from public view and become invisible to society once again. We must not let that happen.
“The real work to sustain the Paralympic legacy starts now. Unless we as a society permanently change the way we view and value the capabilities and aspirations of disabled people, the true potential of the UK’s disabled population may never be realised.”
Revitalise’s call is being backed by Team GB paralympian and 7/7 survivor Martine Wright, who said:
“As someone who only recently acquired the label ‘disabled’, I have experienced this issue from both sides. I consider myself lucky in the sense that since 2005 I have managed to achieve many of my dreams, but I’m keenly aware that the reality of life for the vast majority of disabled people is very different.
“Disabled people have huge potential. They want to play a part in society, to make a contribution, but too often they are held back by the negative attitudes of others. The Games have done an enormous amount of good, but until we start thinking in terms of what disabled people can do, not what they can’t, I’m worried that little will change in the long run.”
Commenting on the high profile of disabled people in the wake of the Games, one respondent said:
“Para Olympics has made a lot more people realise what can be achieved, a lot of different people have told me they did not realise how much people like myself can do, so there is far greater awareness since the Olympics.”
However, many respondents doubted whether the Paralympic ‘feel good’ factor would have any long-term effects. One respondent commented:
“I would like to think that the understanding and empathy towards disabled people would last. Unfortunately I believe that unless you know someone personally or have a disability yourself, there are many people who choose not to engage or understand those who are different.”