At London 2012, we watched Paralympic athletes become sporting heroes, and opinion polls showed a positive shift in the way disabled people are viewed by society. Six months on and what of all the hope and promise of changed attitudes towards disability?
In a chilly, post Olympics 2013 winter, news headlines are still abundant with stories on ‘benefits scroungers,’ we’re seeing changes to services and benefit that are negatively impacting on disabled people, and a respected Cornwall Councillor, Collin Brewer, made the appalling comment that “disabled children cost the council too much money and should be put down.”
A recent Twitter campaign #heardwhilstdisabled highlighted how discrimination is still alive and well for many people as disabled people shared some of the outrageous things that had been said to, or even at, them. From comments such as “You must love staying at home and living on benefits,” to “Do you expect us to put in a lift just for you?” it makes for very grim reading
The government is backing initiatives to promote opportunities, particularly in sport and fitness, to disabled people. Whilst this is very positive, the fact remains that disabled people may only take advantage of such opportunities when basic needs such as living costs are met, and potentially debilitating discriminatory comments are a thing of the past.
The benefits reform and work capability assessments can be a huge source of stress for people who need support. Even more than that, the reforms have arguably fed the destructive culture of viewing claimants as (according to allegations exposed in the recent BBC documentary) ‘Lying, Thieving B****ds‘ or LTBs.
So, what of the Paralympic legacy? What can be said is that media coverage generated by the games has clearly kept disability high in the public’s interest. Whilst claims of discrimination and ignorance may be depressing, they are being scrutinised and are fuelling discussion across the media and social networks.
Councillor Collin Brewer has today resigned following his irresponsible comments about disabled children. Attitudes towards disabled people have moved higher up the media agenda and it seems that no slip up is overlooked; overt discrimination will not be excused by the media. But does this form part of a wider, more positive cultural shift? Disabled people are entitled to an equal place in society, whether they are a Paralympic gold medallist, or the mother of two next door who relies on benefits for support.
Aspire will continue to work hard to achieve a more inclusive society through projects and programmes that aim to remove physical obstacles, economic barriers and social prejudice. One of Aspire’s initiatives to promote inclusion, InstructAbility, has this week announced new dates for funded courses for disabled people to train as fitness instructors. Find out more here…