Wednesday, 29 August 2012

They start tonight.

Yes, the Paralympics are here and the opening ceremony is tonight, and we shall be watching it avidly. I do hope it is as great a success as the Olympics was, not least because it forces us to get up close to the Paralympians and see them as normal people.

Surely, gone are the days when anyone sees disabled people as a race apart. But, no, of course the days have not gone and every thing which happens to reinforce the positive view has got to be good.

One of the best advocates in the UK, and one who has done her very best to make us all face up to our prejudices, is Dame Tanni Grey Thompson, the spin bifida wheelchair user. I heard her speak on radio the other week when she said that when she was born with the condition her father refused to have the house adapted to her needs and insisted that she was the one who had to adapt - and what sound advice that had been in making her determined to succeed.

Another person here in the UK who has widened our horizons over the last couple of years is Melanie Reid, the Times journalist, who broke her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010 and has since been a tetraplegic. She writes a weekly column in the Saturday Times called Spinal Column, which charts her weekly progress. She will be reporting at the games and is a perfect example to make us realise that life need not be over when something like this happens.

I read somewhere about soldiers in the first world war who returned terribly injured and were shut away in institutions. The writer said - if they had died they would have been seen as heroes. As it was they were shut away until they conveniently died. Surely we have moved well on from those days.

Our rehabilitation unit on the Garrison here at Catterick puts young men around us in the supermarket every day, so that we become used to seeing them. Everything that can be done to move forward this attitude is a plus.

Oscar Pistorius, that running miracle on two blades, says the best thing that could happen is that we stop calling people disabled and start calling them differently abled. Maybe we should all try that. In the meantime - enjoy the paralympics.

11 comments:

Reader Wil said...

Great! I am also going to watch the opening ceremony. The Dutch are represented by more than 90 athletes.
What a wise father Dame Tanni Grey Thompson had! Great post, Pat. It's true they are differently abled.

Reader Wil said...

Oh, and yes, my header is Norway!

Heather said...

Yes, I will be watching Pat. I have only recently learned that servicemen and others with severe spinal injuries were sedated and shut away until that wonderful German doctor (I can't recall his name) used his unorthodox methods to give them a life, and that was in the 1940/50s. All these people have to work so hard to rebuild their lives and are an example to everyone.

Tanya @ Lovely Greens said...

I've heard that it's a sell-out! Good for them :)

I hadn't heard of the journalist who writes the 'Spinal Column' in the Saturday Times. I'll definitely look it and her up.

angryparsnip said...


Wow @Reader Will, the Dutch are sending 90 athletes ? How great is that.
Have not even heard it mentioned over here, and NBC, the channel with the worst Olympic coverage ever ! and the two sister channels that carried the Olympics has the US Open and US Diving. No Paralympics.

I will have to follow it on the computer.

Have you seem the Hedgehog lately ?

cheers, parsnip

Titus said...

Hear Hear Weaver. And yes, there has been a lot of progress since the 40's and 50's - my family, back in the pig farm days, used to collect food for the swill from the nearby hospitals, and my father told us about the 'Unseeable' hospital - unseeable because it was where the men who had been burnt inside their tanks were kept, and their disabilities and disfigurement where such it was thought they could no rejoin society. But as you know, I work for Arthritis Care, and I still can't book a hotel with more than 3 or 4 fully-accessible rooms. In this day and age, as they say.
Obviously, with what happened to my older brother, I've followed Melanie Reid avidly so I'm looking forward to seeing her speak at last!
I think the final thing I want to say is - the paraolympians, like all top sportspeople, must be incredibly driven people. I hope they can change people's attitudes to disability, but it shouldn't have to be about overcoming. It must be about bog-standard equality. There are still train stations, schools, universities, shops and public buildings which simply aren't accessible. Do you remember when Tanni Grey Thompson won something on Sports Personality of the Year? They hadn't made the raised podium wheelchair-accessible, so she had to stay where she was whilst they brought the award to her.

I could go on, but I feel I am starting to hobby-horse...

Titus said...

Excuse all the spelling mistakes, stuck in the Opening Ceremony!

Robin Mac said...

I have only seen a little bit of the opening ceremony as yet, but that was fabulous and I am looking forward to watching it on replay tonight. I am so thrilled the event is virtually sold out and that there are so many athletes there, so sad that one of the African countries (can't remember which one) had to pull out at the last minute because of lack of finances. I agree, they are just different, not disabled. We will be cheering them all on during the games. Cheers

Cloudia said...

we HAVE moved on, thank goodness!



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Rosalind Adam said...

Hi, I popped over to visit from AJ's blog. I too think that the Paralympics is an amazing thing but I was a bit disappointed at Channel 4's presentation of the opening ceremony last night. I hope they get their act together for the actual games.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for all these interesting comments - they make fascinating reading. Titus's comments are particularly interesting - re those who had been severely burnt. I think that wonderful Simon Weston, who was so badly disfigured during the Falklands war, did a tremendous job of making us accept such things. But there is still a long way to go -