The Paralympics is a major event that has, over the years, had a great impact on disabled people’s lives. When the 2012 Games were hosted by London, the groundbreaking approach to diversity and inclusion impacted people with disabilities beyond those that were competing. This has had a longer snowball effect on people’s attitudes towards disabilities. In a recent survey undertaken by U.K.-based charity Scope, 69% of disabled people stated that the Paralympics can help tackle negative attitudes towards them.
People with disabilities make up 15% of the world’s population. This year’s acclaimed “Superhumans” advertising series from Chanel 4 is inspired by real-life experiences, to move the focus from super to human. Zaid Al-Qassab, chief marketing officer of Channel 4, said “We tried to bring it back to the fact these people are humans, yes, they’re brilliant, extraordinary humans, but they face the same challenges as any other human beings. And they face more challenges that are only the challenges of people with disabilities.”
As highlighted in the video, the demands of high-performance sport to a Paralympic athlete can be very challenging, including access to assistive technology and specific sports equipment, limited media coverage, sports injuries, and mental health. As well as challenges beyond the field, like when we see Paralympian rugby player Kylie Grimes being unable to maneuver her wheelchair up the step of a cafe. People with disabilities face many barriers with accessibility, discrimination, and isolation, even more so during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a disproportionate toll on disabled people.
From the struggles and victories of the Paralympics athletes, we can draw lessons of perseverance and determination despite overwhelming challenges: an important message in these trying times. And harnessing the Paralympics ability to create positive change, the IPC, Special Olympics, Invictus Games Foundation, and the International Committee of Sports for the Deaf (Deaflympics) have teamed up to launch the ‘WeThe15 campaign’ which is going to run over the next decade in order to deliver long-term change, creating a more disability-inclusive world. To find out more about the WeThe15 campaign click here.