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Less Than 100 Days to Rio Paralympics: Attitudes To Disability Still Lagging Behind

01/06/2016 16:44 | Updated 01 June 2016

With the Rio 2016 Paralympics opening ceremony less than 100 days away, the Games will put disability in the spotlight.

But do the Paralympics have the power to make a lasting change in attitudes to disabled people?

Our research shows that the majority of disabled people in Britain are treated differently because they're disabled.

London 2012 changed perceptions of disabled people and celebrated Paralympians as sporting equals.

But four years on, Scope research shows that 62% of disabled people say they're treated differently because they are disabled. This rises to a staggering 76% of young disabled people, aged 18-35.

Research for Scope's End the Awkward campaign shows two-thirds of the British public (67%) admit that they feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people. A fear of seeming patronising or saying the wrong thing is why most people feel awkward.

Nearly half (43%) of the British public don't know anyone who is disabled.

So Rio couldn't be coming at a better time.

A 24-hour Twitter poll conducted by Scope ahead of the '100 days to go' milestone on 30 May, shows 70% of 370 Twitter users believe the Paralympics improve attitudes towards disabled people.

But while many people responded positively to the poll, there were also concerns that the Games don't change attitudes in the long term.

In a similar discussion on Scope's online community, one user said: "The Paralympics promote a positive portrayal of disability, but also quite a limited perspective. There needs to be more programming that presents a more general portrayal of disability, the everyday kind of experiences that people have."

This view is supported by the "Paralympic effect" following London 2012, when surveys showed that public perceptions of disability had improved because of coverage of the Games.

We need to create a lasting Paralympic effect, where attitudes are shifted for good and disabled people are included across all parts of society.

Broadcasters, including the BBC and Channel 4, are making positive moves to increase the visibility of disabled people across their programming and behind the scenes.

But there is still a long way to go.

At Scope, we'll be celebrating the Paralympics and cheering on team ParalympicsGB.

We're also creating platforms for all disabled people to share their stories and experiences, starting this month with 30 extraordinary disabled people under 30 in #30towatch.

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