When I look at our Paralympians as role models and people who may become influencers with the disability movement going forward. For me, London 2012 was where Paralympians truly stood out as athletes and their sporting achievements and performances became paramount. I sensed before the 2012 games; the public had genuine admiration for Disabled people competing in a sport but this was overshadowed by a misunderstanding of the actual realities of Disabled sport and participation.
Ultimately, I believe that the Paralympic movement that began for many at London 2012 has also broken down barriers within the media. Many Paralympians have become household names on our TV sets, paving the way for non-Paralympians to make a career in media, which has been underrepresented for years. I also think it has changed public perception from Disabled people needing support to Disabled people contributing/achieving.
The City of London became more accessible once they won the bid for the 2012 games, and for all the talk of the legacy of the games, this impetus to improve access has been a massive benefit to Londoners and visitors to the capital.
I am based in Birmingham, which will be host to the 2022 Commonwealth Games and I hope to see a similar change here. Already we’ve seen a significant improvement to our city’s infrastructure providing more accessible travel and facilities all over the West Midlands.
I guess that’s why I don’t see the Paralympics as just a sporting event; I see it as a reminder of what’s possible if our Paralympians are given an accessible platform to showcase their skills and work ethic. It’s also an excellent platform for keeping the disability movement alive and continuing to highlight the barriers we all face.
For my work, I deliver several online exercise sessions covering social engagement, seated exercise, and spinning sessions, and I also ran walking groups before lockdown. It has been fascinating to see how the client group dynamics have changed from becoming less focused on supporting me to becoming more focused on what I can offer them.
What I mean by this is I suspect in some cases people joined as they were curious to see how someone in a wheelchair could run a walking group or deliver a spinning session. You maybe even thinking the same yourself, which is okay. I did too.
Members now ask me more health-related questions, rely on me for I.T support and generally confine in me if they are experiencing personal problems. Although I’m not a Paralympian, I do feel my role contributes to many elements of what the Paralympic movement brings to the table. This overwhelming feeling of community and support can’t go undervalued.
I do feel that non-Paralympic sports can often go under-discussed, and I feel it essential to mention them here. When a sport doesn’t have Paralympic status it can go underfunded, fall out of the spotlight and fail to engage the Disabled community as much as it could. We know that many more great talents are going unnoticed for choosing a non-Paralympic sport and that there is so many more sports Disabled people could enjoy if the funding was there.
At the end of the day, the Paralympics are a really exciting time for me as a Disabled person. I look forward to seeing the next group of influencers, TV stars, and not to forget amazing athletes. I believe the 2012 games changed the Paralympic movement for good and I hope that the legacy of this year’s games can continue for many more to come.
If you’ve enjoyed Roy’s story, and haven’t caught up with the rest of our Paralympic stories you can view them all here.