“Wheelchair access. Bullshit.”
That was the reaction of my summer camp mentor while, as we hiked through a forest, we discovered that the path we’d been told had wheelchair access for our disabled team-mate did, in fact, not. As a result we spent two hours lost in a forest, with six tired teens taking turns to push a wheelchair through knee-high mud in an attempt to find a good path. When we got back we complained to the hiking organisers, and they didn’t give a damn. They just didn’t care.
And as you probably saw in the title, I believe that the exact same attitude is going on in the London 2012 Paralympics. The BBC (the British Broadcasting Corporation) has wrapped up their celebration of the London Games with the full-bodied Olympians; the government decided to hand over the rights to airing the Paralympics in the UK to another TV station, Channel 4. Not that 4 isn’t fairly respected, but when the British government passes on giving coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics to the national TV station, their decision seems only to reek of apathy.
The Paralympics had a small relay of the Paralympic torch through London to Stoke Mandeville, in huge contrast to the Olympic torch’s passage through 1019 different locations across Britain. We’ve already had Boyle’s fantastic opening ceremony and the not-so-fabulous closing ceremony held for the Olympics alone, instead of putting a closing ceremony at the end of all the Games to include the Paralympics too. Gold-winning Olympians had individual postage stamps printed in their honour, yet the Paralympians had to fight for the honour. It feels like the disabled are being treated like second-class citizens: everything is smaller and quieter and almost invisible in regards to them.
Granted, I don’t expect the British government to splash out ridiculously like they did for the Olympics, but I do expect them to adequately encourage their tagline for the 2012 London Games: “inspire a generation.” What better way to inspire my generation than by showing the courage and sheer perseverance that athletes have displayed in spite of disability? Instead these Games are toned down, held right at the end when everyone is going back to work and school, and not even recognised with the same national coverage as the full-bodied Games? At the very least, tickets to the Paralympics have been eagerly snatched up this year, restoring my faith in the British public. Because I am rather disappointed in my government.
Feel free to strongly disagree. Got rather ranty in this post.