THE BLOG
09/09/2013 09:45 BST | Updated 06/11/2013 05:12 GMT

The Paralympics One Year On: The Journey to Parity and Equality

With National Paralympic Day on 7 September, it's a time for reflection for all of us. It was a year ago that London staged the Paralympic Games.

During 12 days of fierce competition, elite athletes from across the world battled it out for medals in the greatest Paralympics ever staged. With every win, the public celebrated the achievements of these amazing people. They focused on ability where once they they might have seen only disability.

It took black footballers almost thirty years to gain the same level of acceptance and parity in some quarters of society as Paralympians achieved in under a fortnight on the global stage.

Of course this sudden, mainstream respect for disabled athletes must not mask the need for the movement to progress further.

Issues around disability allowances for example are a hot topic at the moment and Sophie Christiansen, who won three equestrian Gold medals in London, contextualised the next challenge facing the disability movement very well recently.

She feels that there remains a huge gap between how Paralympians are perceived and how the rest of the disabled community is seen.

Sophie believes that while the public may assume they understand disability because of the Games, they do not yet see the everyday lives of disabled people behind the scenes. She wants to see more focus on teaching people about disability.

Sophie spoke to The Guardian recently and said:

"Even for me, there are still basic issues - for instance, it is assumed that because I am at the top of my sport and won three gold medals my life is sorted out but I still have problems receiving the right care I need for cerebral palsy - I still have to raise money to pay for carers and have trouble finding them."

BT has worked over the last several years to raise the profile of Paralympians - collaborating with great athletes like Jonnie Peacock and Hannah Cockroft to raise their profile, engage mainstream audiences and give these inspiring disabled people a platform, a voice and an audience.

And we've come a long way that many of you are even reading this blog - or know their names - and know the names of Ellie Simmonds, Richard Whitehead and Ade Adeptian to name a few. But it is still the start of the journey to parity and equality. I am proud BT is playing a role in accelerating this transition into the mainstream. But there is still much work to be done.

We will always celebrate great talent because we are all moved and inspired by greatness in whatever form. That inspiration generates the energy and positivity to make things better - not just for Paralympians but for all us who value an inclusive, diverse and progressive society.

So for now at least it is the leading Paralympians who are the headline-makers, and not the everyday Joe. And there is much much more to do to create a real understanding of the everyday challenges facing disabled people. But the debate has started - the discussion is live.

The London 2012 Paralympics have opened the doors and created the platform to keep disability in the headlines and drive the debate forwards. There's a lot to be celebrated. And a great deal more still to do.