Disabled people say Paralympics have improved public attitudes
13 December 2012
The majority of disabled people think that the 2012 Paralympic Games in London have had a positive impact on attitudes.
But the new poll from the disability charity Scope – the first to ask disabled people what they think of the Paralympics effect – also shows that many disabled people still experience discrimination on a regular basis.
The charity’s Chief Executive Richard Hawkes says that the poll shows that the Paralympics effect is real.
But he argues you don’t change attitudes in a fortnight, and charities, the media and the Government must now build on the momentum.
- 72% of disabled people think that the Paralympics have had a positive impact on attitudes. 20% say it’s changed the way people talk to them and 20% say it’s made people more aware of their needs.
- However, 54% say they experience discrimination on a regular basis with 84% of disabled people saying people patronise them and 63.5% saying they have experienced people refusing to make adjustments or do things differently.
- The poll is a follow-up to a survey conducted by Scope before the Paralympics. In that survey disabled people claimed that attitudes were getting worse, but also that the Paralympics (through greater visibility and more discussions) could make a difference.
The ‘Paralympics effect’
The poll comes as the debate continues over the so-called Paralympics effect.
In September Lord Coe’s view that "we would never look at disability in the same way again" was backed up by polling from Channel 4.
However, in October disabled people took to the streets to protest against cuts.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, speaking to a national newspaper, asked where the evidence is of a change in attitudes.
Don't write-off the Paralympics effect
But according to Richard Hawkes we shouldn’t write off the Paralympics effect. He said: “Disabled people tell Scope that greater visibility and public discussion of their lives makes a difference.
“During the Games Ellie Simmonds, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock become national heroes. Disability was consistently, openly and widely talked about like never before. Channel 4’s poll taken straight after the games pointed to a change in public attitudes.
“But it takes longer than a fortnight to change attitudes. Times are undoubtedly tough for disabled people. But maybe rather than write the Paralympics effect off, we should be asking what we can do to build on it and keep it going.
“The Paralympics in London happens once in a lifetime. But let’s ask what else we can do increase disabled people’s visibility in the media, in politics, in the arts and above all in everyday life?
“At Scope – through our work on the ground, through our campaigns – we aim to make this a better place for disabled people. But is there more that we and other charities can do?
“Channel 4 is investing in disabled talent. Other broadcasters have schemes in place, but is there more we can do to get disabled talent into the mainstream?
“Esther McVey, Minister for Disabled People, has said we need to build on the Paralympics legacy.
“Can she explain to her colleagues that benefits shouldn’t be a dirty word? Every Paralympic athlete will have had some support to overcome the barriers. The starting point for welfare should be what do disabled people need to live their lives – not what can we take away to save money?”
Views of disabled people
Ade Adepitan MBE - Scope patron, TV presenter and former paralympic wheelchair basketball player, said:
“London 2012 helped generate some bright disabled role models who can really make a difference to the perceptions of the public for many years to come. I think the Paralympics will create a lot of opportunities but there’s a job to do now to build on this and get more disabled people visible in the mainstream.”
Rhona Kingett, from Leicester, is in her mid-40s and has Multiple Sclerosis. She said: “On a small scale and in local areas I think attitudes have changed for the better. However, the bigger issues in society relating to disability still need to be addressed and tackled.”
Sarah Kiley, from Greater Manchester, has a son Philip, who is aged eight and has Downs Syndrome. She said: “I am not sure if the Paralympics had a big effect on attitudes in society, but it has had an impact on me personally. I feel like I can now go forward with more confidence and more power to question or challenge attitudes.”
Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now, said: “Some things have changed. The profile of disability sport is much, much higher and Paralympic events and achievements are taken more seriously. The fact that there are three Paralympians on the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year is indicative of this. There's also been a certain amount of change in the general perception of disability. But I don't think any of this has had much of an impact on the lives of the vast majority of disabled people. We are still facing endemic and institutionalised discrimination and denial of rights, opportunities and equality. More of us live in poverty than in society as a whole. Affordable accessible housing is scarce. Many disabled children are being poorly served by an education system not geared up to meet their needs. We have less access to employment. Getting around is generally more difficult and often more expensive. All of this means that many of us feel isolated and apart from the communities of which we should be a fully integrated part.”
Martyn Sibley, co-founder of disability lifestyle website Disability Horizons, said:
“I can say I think attitudes have changed for the better but we need to turn this goodwill into improved transport, public building and employment for disabled people. There's still a lot to do.”
Notes to the Editor:
For more information, spokespeople or case studies, please contact the Scope press office on 020 7619 7200.
Scope conducted an online poll during November and received responses from 400 disabled people or the people that care for them. Download the Paralympics poll (PDF, 35kb).