THE BLOG
05/09/2013 08:44 BST | Updated 04/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Let's Make Britain Better For All People With a Disability

Who can forget the moment Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds broke her own world record in the 200 metres. Or the phenomenal sporting achievements of David Weir, the wheelchair racer whose six medals put him in a class of his own, and sprinter Jonnie Peacock who won gold.

A year has passed since the Paralympic Games, and the good news is they've had a lasting positive impact on people's attitudes.

Not only have they provided role models for disabled young people, Paralympic GB athletes have also helped break down stigma.

This is borne out by research that Turning Point recently published into public attitudes. A third of people we surveyed said the Games meant they had a more positive impression towards people with a learning disability.

For the first time in more than a decade, people with a learning disability were allowed to compete and our research shows the power of large-scale events such as the London Paralympics in changing the public attitudes for the better.

There is a 'but' though. Our survey findings also showed that the British public believe the experience of those living with a learning disability, in the UK is deteriorating. This is in marked contrast to a similar survey we conducted back in 2010.

More than a third of those interviewed drew particular attention to discrimination in the fields of housing and healthcare costs. This reflects the well-documented pressure on resources in these areas, pressure which is being felt among all groups in society.

The research we commissioned also revealed a lack of knowledge about the needs of those with a learning disability- and even the definition of a learning disability. For example, two in five people wrongly believe that cerebral palsy is a learning disability and more than a third believe mental illness is a learning disability.

It's concerning to learn from our findings that one in five people surveyed still believe that the most suitable arrangement for people with a learning disability is a care home or a secure hospital. These attitudes demonstrate that ignorance is still widespread. And if we're really going to change perceptions then we have to do more as a nation than just take an interest in- and celebrate the success of- disabled athletes.

Much has been written already on the Olympic 'legacy.' One of the obvious legacies of the greatest sporting event on earth is that people with a disability are more visible than ever.

Of course it's a step in the right direction and positive that the Paralympics has triggered a change in attitudes and this includes in the media. It's heartening to have seen the focus on athletic achievements instead of patronising references to people with a disability being 'brave.' But we also have to change people's perceptions towards those who are never going to appear on a podium draped in the Union Jack with a medal around their neck. The focus must be on 'ability,' not on 'disability'; on the positive, not the negative.

Lord Coe said the Paralympics had a 'seismic effect' in shifting public attitudes, but also that the real challenge was to maintain 'sustainable and meaningful' change.

Only a few are fortunate to have the athletic ability to become a Paralympian. We mustn't forget that the vast majority of people with a disability lead ordinary lives just like the rest of us. It is these lives which need to improve before we can say with confidence that Britain is a better place for those with a disability.