Paralympics and the Changing Perspective of Disabilities
In the past, an individual with a disability would be perceived as ill, which puts them in the “medical care” basket. People’s perceptions of disability were based on a need to be “normal” and on fear of difference. It was a time when this negative perception influenced how the majority of people interacted with people with disabilities, but it also affected how individuals with disabilities saw themselves in society.
But there has been a shift in perception in more recent times. People have started promoting the social perspective on disability rather than the medical one. People with disabilities are shown to be more restricted by the pressure put on them by society than their impairments. That shift in thought has led them to participate in sports (as well as other levels of society), and it has shown in the events like the Paralympic Games.
The Power of Positive Life Stories
One way of changing negative perceptions is through portraying positive life stories, which is the case with the British tennis player Lucy Shuker. At the age of 21, Lucy was paralyzed from the waist down after a motorbike accident. However, that didn’t stop her to become the highest ranked woman in the sport in Britain.
Thanks to the Paralympics and its good media coverage, showing these incredible life stories to the world is what makes people change their perception. Paralympians are heroes who have managed to overcome adversity. They have become role models for other athletes and people with disabilities (and even those without), but at the same time, they’ve earned admiration from society as a whole due to their achievements. They have shown us that dreams can become a reality.
Role Models with Disabilities
Ellie Simmonds, a British swimmer, received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her achievements in sport. OBE was also given to Blake Cochrane, a swimmer and student at the University of the Sunshine Coast, who has won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, 2 gold medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, and holds a world record in the 100m breaststroke. Also, he’s the first athlete to win the back-to-back USC Sportsperson of the Year trophy. Melissa Tapper (swimmer from Australia) and Natalie du Toit (table tennis player from South Africa) have had success in both the mainstream Olympic and Paralympic arenas.
These success stories show us how para-athletes are being judged alongside their athlete peers with or without a disability. Para-athletes can also use their achievements to enhance the societal change in perception by reminding that sports should be accessible to all people (even at the highest level).
The Paralympics games have helped change people’s perspectives, mainly due to media coverage. The use of pitying language was prevailing in the coverage of earlier games, but this has changed, and the modern Paralympics aren’t being patronized that way anymore. However, there will always be individuals (including journalists) who are still lagging when it comes to encouraging and promoting positive change in societal perceptions of disability.
None of these exceptional athletes with disabilities would have made their achievements without staying inspired and motivated. These incredible life stories are there to tell us that we can do everything once we set our minds to it. Inspyr Gear is there to remind you of the invaluable life lessons with our collection of inspirational socks.