I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard this question asked on television or radio in the last week or so.
The consensus seems to be that it will. From a disabled person’s point of view, I’m sure the Games have inspired people to want to experience sport and aspire to be taking part in Brazil in 2016, or at other future Paralympic Games. Hopefully, for others, it’s made them aware of more sports they can do just for fun. Let’s hope sufficient legacy funding exists to ensure facilities and coaches exist near their homes so both of these are achievable.
As for non-disabled people, I feel it is easy to say their attitude has changed while disability sport is I the public eye, but how will it change? What will people do differently? What impact will a presumed change of attitude have a month from now, in 6 months or in a year’s time?
I can’t see the momentum being sustained as much as I’d like, but I hope I’m proved wrong. There has never been a greater opportunity to capitalise on the events of the last couple of weeks to make a lasting difference.
Let me suggest a few areas I’d like to see a difference:
- Will owners/managers of pubs, restaurants, cafes, etc take a close look at their premises and the service they offer, ensuring they welcome disabled customers in the same way as others?
- Will members of the public spot what needs improving in places they visit and make recommendations to owners and managers?
- Will people refrain from abusing blue badge parking permits or parking in bays designated for disabled parking?
- Will refuge collectors and residents stop leaving bins in the middle of footpaths, causing obstructions to wheelchair users, people with sight or mobility impairments as well as parents pushing buggies and prams?
- Will the Government review their plans to close Remploy factories?
- Will Nexus and Tyne & Wear Metro find a way to allow mobility scooter users to travel safely on the system? They have been banned since a couple of accidents in 2008. I have what I believe to be a practical solution, so I hope they’ll contact me to find out more.
- Will business executives, council leaders and officials as well film, TV and radio celebrities volunteer to spend a day in a wheelchair doing their normal activities on 1st March 2013, the date of the sixth International Wheelchair Day?
- Will people consider attending classes through their work or at further education establishments to learn more about the issues affecting disabled people and how they can help to make their lives easier?
I could make this list much longer, but hopefully I’ve made my point.
I fear the answer will be “No” for the vast majority of people once we get back into a normal, post-Paralympics routine. If that is the case, then attitudes won’t have changed. The Paralympics will have been a great success for many reasons, but the promised legacy will be short lived. I sincerely hope I’m wrong.