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We must build on the Paralympic Games

We must take the positives from the Paralympic Games and ensure they are weaved throughout society, argues our CEO, Jeremy Hay.

The Paralympic Games, as it always is, has been a truly amazing event. It is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the sporting calendar. The inspiration and feeling of remarkable achievement that comes from it transcends many areas.

The athletes in the Paralympic Games are incredible. I can’t really find the right adjective to describe how they make me feel. No matter what disability they have, they train professionally and deliver outstanding and extraordinary performances. And, for a few weeks, they help all of us see the ability. Not the disability.

It’s about more than just the sport

But it’s not just the athletes. The whole movement is inspiring. One of the things I enjoy the most during the games is the use of people with lived experience to bring the whole thing to life for us. From the commentators and pundits across the television networks, to the truly wonderful Last Leg every evening on Channel 4. Not only do these guys really know their sport, the understand the perspective of disability. They bring each event to life in a way that no-one else can. For two weeks every four years, it all combines to feel like there’s a real, fundamental change coming.

But then the event is over and what happens as a result? Sadly, very little. We have to wait another four years to celebrate the achievements of those with a disability, because there are no major athletic events across Europe where these athletes can perform. The commentators all disappear from TV again, as mainstream blandness comes back. And society, dare I say, quickly forgets. It should act as a catalyst for widespread change. But it doesn’t.

Does the feeling transform society and see people become more accepting and understanding of people with all forms of disability and autism? In our experience it doesn’t.

Society must do more

Take one of the biggest rights we all have, to work. Many of us take this for granted, but not those with learning disabilities. Job discrimination is rife. Work experience opportunities are denied, let alone the chances to secure fully paid employment. And those who cry Covid are, frankly, taking nonsense. Even more simple things are done without any thought to those with learning disabilities. The world is going cashless, but this doesn’t work for those who don’t have bank cards. Who thinks about that? No-one.

So, the same people who watch and admire the Paralympics athletes for two weeks every four years don’t then go out and challenge themselves to think differently. To be truly inclusive. To create a society that is for everyone.

Perhaps it’s time they did.