Poll indicates potential of London 2012 to have positive impact on disabled people’s lives
Ahead of International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3rd December) and as a second batch of Paralympic tickets goes on sale the 2nd December, London 2012 has been hailed as an ‘opportunity’ for disabled people by 71% of the wider British public.
The findings come from a Scope-commissioned ComRes poll, and suggest that the Paralympics has a crucial role to play at a time when attitudes towards disabled people are getting worse.
Between April and September this year the number of disabled people claiming they experienced aggression, hostility or name calling saw a dramatic hike from 41% to 66%.
According to Scope the survey highlights the potential the Olympics and Paralympics has for creating a wider legacy.
But disabled people remain sceptical about the games. Only 32% of disabled people plan to watch all or most of the events; while one-fifth say that the Paralympic Games make them feel second class (20%). And while the wider public is enthusiastic about the potential impact of the Paralympics only 18% are excited enough that they intend to watch most or all of the games.
How do we bridge the gap? One suggestion, that has broad support amongst disabled people (65%) and parents of disabled children (62%), is to combine the Olympics and Paralympics. This comes in the wake of Oscar Pistorius’ intention to compete in both games and accusations that this would ‘blur the edges’ between the two and even relegate a 400m Paralympic event to a ‘B final’.
While Oscar Pistorius is perhaps the most recognisable Paralypian he’s not the only whose ambitions have straddled both games. In Beijing table tennis player Natalia Partyka and swimmer Natalie Du Toit competed in both games, albeit in different events.
A majority of British adults say that combing the Olympics and Paralympics would help disabled athletes to be taken more seriously (54%) and it would improve society’s views about disabled people (52%).
But, for many disabled athletes and disability sport orgnisations that bridge has already been crossed, and combining both games has long been regarded as impractical.
For Scope the answer lies in making sure all disabled people can feel part of the whole event.
It is therefore worrying to read about increasing concerns being raised around how easily disabled people can use capital’s transport network and hotel rooms during the games.
Alice Maynard, Chair of disability charity Scope, said: “It’s just not clear how London will cope with having so many people and so many disabled people in the same place at the same time.”
For Scope, giving all disabled people the chance to feel part of the Olympics is key to ensuring that it has a lasting impact in terms of changing attitudes. The games need to be about more than just the athletes – they need to engage all disabled people.
Alice said: “Changing attitudes is about visibility and increased familiarity in everyday life. We all feel less connected to things we are not used to. First-hand experiences challenge negative perceptions.
“But if the only disabled people that get any profile out of the games are Paralympians – and their feats of sporting success, then it is unlikely that the games will do much to change people’s perceptions of ordinary disabled people.
“The challenge for London 2012 is to make sure disabled people are involved not just on track and field but throughout the games and the celebrations before and afterwards.”
• ComRes interviewed 386 disabled people, 111 parents and eight carers of disabled people, between 3-30 August 2011 online. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.