Are We All Paralympians Now?

September 9, 2012   |   Posted by Andy Shipley

I found myself meeting a friend in a pub on the evening of 29th August, enjoying a little pre-birthday drink. The TV was on, and the usual crowd of sports fans gathered around it. But this wasn’t the midweek match producing the outbursts of barstool punditry; it was the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games. And whilst my friend and I chatted with one eye/ear on the spectacle unfolding in Stratford, our fellow patrons discussed GB’s medal haul in Beijing, the competitors to look out for, and their records. It was at that point that I really began to think that ‘Inspiring a generation’ might be a genuine possibility.  What I think is interesting is that it is not necessarily the events and exploits that are generating record breaking attendance, or the TV coverage but that it’s simply because it’s all just more great sport. The way the venues have been designed and the event organised from the perspective of competitors and spectators, with and without impairment, has perhaps for the first time ever on such a huge public stage, mainstreamed disability. It is the unremarkable way I and other disabled people have circulated within and between venues, without laborious …

Inspire a generation – to greater sustainability?

September 6, 2012   |   Posted by Jonathan Turner

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Inspire a generation signage

London 2012 promised that the Games would “inspire a generation”. During the Olympic and Paralympic Games we have been looking at what this means for sustainability. I recently met with some of the team working on what LOCOG call “look and feel”, which includes everything from signage and way finding to all the banners throughout London and the messages that these are used to convey. Some of the figures involved with this are quite remarkable. 100km of fence scrim (the material used to wrap a fence with) have been used. That’s enough to wrap a fence running all the way …

Move right down inside the cars

September 5, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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As we continue to cheer on ParalympicsGB in their superhuman effort to overhaul their record medals tally in Beijing, it is time to start applauding another slightly less obvious superhuman effort by Peter Hendy and his team at Transport for London. The doom mongers predicted disaster, London’s creaking Victorian transport system would not be able to cope with the vast numbers visiting London for the Games. It all worked well during the Olympics despite these gloomy predictions. “Ah”, said the cynics “wait until the Paralympics in September, the kids will be back at school, everybody will return to work, then the system will go into meltdown”. The theory was that everybody who was not interested in the Games stayed out of town in August but they would all return in September and the system would be unable to cope. On the Tuesday of the final week of competition this has not happened to date. My team travelled to all London venues and found the tube lines to be very busy as they often are at peak times. The Docklands Light Railway struggled a little and there were some queues but nothing like the queues of several hours that were predicted. …

Blind faith

September 4, 2012   |   Posted by Shaun McCarthy

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Are visually impaired people getting a good deal from London 2012? “Everybody’s Games” was one of the inspirational phrases used by London 2012 leaders and politicians throughout the London 2012 programme. My experience to date suggests that the experience for most disabled people has been great. At the wonderful rowing venue at Eton Dorney the other day I was stopped by a wheelchair user who was keen to tell me this has been the best Paralympics ever for “us wheelies”. He was a veteran of Beijing and Athens and spoke with such enthusiasm it made me proud to have played a very small part in supporting “everybody’s Games”. However, there seems to be a small wave of feedback from visually impaired and blind people that could suggest they are getting a raw deal. Last week I met Robert Johnson on the BBC’s In Touch programme. A visually impaired visitor to many Olympic venues, he told his tales of frustration at trying to get audio commentary, without malice and with genuine constructive criticism. Inspired by his words I went along to the Paralympic rowing venue at Eton Dorney and asked some volunteers about audio commentary. They did not know and radio …

Paralympics – a great inspiration

September 3, 2012   |   Posted by David Jackman

We are now being treated to the second half of a great summer of sport. The Paralympics – which has its origins in Stoke Mandeville in the UK and the previous London Games of 1948 – has started with the same enthusiasm and support experienced for the London 2012 Olympics a few weeks ago. London 2012 I am sure will be remembered as much for raising levels of admiration for disabled people, as much as celebrating the triumphs of the non-disabled Games. Both sets of Games are united by the same aims of common endeavour and striving for excellence, both rebuild our confidence in human achievement and the human spirit. But the Paralympics has an extra special dimension, of battling against the odds, of overcoming often immense obstacles and demonstrating tremendous determination. The back stories of some of the athletes are truly amazing. The Paralympics tells us a lot about sustainability. It’s a show case of the resilience and adaptability right at the heart of the sustainability theme. Individuals and families, often caught unawares, have had to cope with real difficulties and limitations. They have had to find ways round what must seem like huge blocks in the road and …


September 2, 2012   |   Posted by Emma Synnott

I am still living on the feeling of joining 79,000 others in signing ‘I am what I am’ at the finale of the Opening Ceremony.  For me, nothing beats that moment – looking around the crowd as people stood, stamped and moved to the song made a classic by Gloria Gaynor, while collectively telling the world in British Sign Language that we are all who we are.  It powerfully reinforced the meaning of the word -  ‘inclusion’  truly is about each and every one of us in all our differences.   The inclusiveness of the London 2012 Paralympic Games is not just a product of the excellent work of London 2012 and all who sail in her, but also the result of hard yards over many years by many different people and organisations to make the UK as inclusive as it is today.  While there is still vastly more to be done, it is an important time to recognise just what has been achieved.   It is fitting then, that the cultural pinnacle for the disability movement in London, ‘Liberty’ celebrates its tenth anniversary in the midst of this festival of sport and culture. No cultural babe-in-the-woods, Liberty’s free, three-day …