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The Paralympics Alone Will Never Fully Change Perceptions Towards Disabled People

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Twelve months ago, the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony heralded the start of 10 days of incredible Paralympic sport. More than 1.5million people came to support our event and, being a member of Paralympics GB, it felt like all of those 1.5million people came to support us!

But a new poll commissioned by the charity Scope suggests that 81% of disabled people have not noticed that attitudes towards them have improved since London 2012, while just over a fifth believed matters have deteriorated. In addition, 84% said they felt the language used in the debate about benefits and disabled people have caused a negative shift in public attitudes.

This may well be the case from those polled, but turn it round the other way and 19% of disabled people would say attitudes have improved since London. What were we expecting? Generations of discrimination and ingrained ignorance to change overnight?

The Paralympics were a stage for disability sports where athletes showed the world how "able" the disabled really are and can be. Now according to Scope nearly 20% of people are more aware of what the disabled can achieve. I'll take that for starters!

From my own experience, people who may not otherwise have approached me have asked about my experience at the Paralympics. Due to local demand since London, together with my brother, I've set up a goalball club in Winchester. Goalball has seen a 25% increase in participation, and not everyone is disabled, blind or visually impaired! Hey, The Last Leg on Channel Four was even commissioned for a follow-up series, so much did people enjoy the humour of three disabled presenters!

As for the disabled and benefits, that's another story which shouldn't be clouded with the Paralympics. The needs of the disabled are many - varied and individual. As many have said before, politics and sport don't mix; so let's not try to mix them now. Let's remember the Games for what they were, a showcase of the best-disabled sports people from across the world coming together to compete, to help create a legacy of disabled sport and coming together not to change perceptions, but to give them a nudge in the right direction.

As a result, more people are enjoying disability sport, and perceptions towards the disabled have improved by 20%.

Perhaps then, they really were more than just a 'Paralympic Games'?

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