I for one love watching the Paralympic Games and can’t wait until they start this year. It’s undeniable that the Paralympic Games in 2012 encouraged people to talk about disability and this, in my book can only be a positive thing. The issue was, and still is that disabled people have been stereotyped as Paralympic ‘Superhumans’ or benefit scroungers. Neither one of these categories do I myself fall into and neither do any of my disabled friends. The idea that disabled people can be and are, ‘normal people’ who go about their everyday lives as best they can just like everyone else, seems to be a concept which is difficult for the media and others to grasp.
It could be argued that the new Channel 4 trailer for the Rio 2016 Paralympics is positive as it includes non-athletes, however I disagree. It suggests that disabled people are also superhuman and shows them performing everyday things in different ways, such as playing a guitar with their feet. All this with a backdrop of ♬ Yes I can ♬
Here’s the thing; yes, I can speak French even though I am profoundly deaf. Yes, I can throw some moves on the dancefloor and have some trophies to prove it. Yes, I can lipread what the ref is saying on the football pitch. But, here’s the rub. No, I can’t go on a date to the cinema on a Friday or Saturday night because there aren’t any subtitled showings. No, I can’t manage to follow what is said at big family gatherings. No, I can’t understand my sister’s partner, as he is Welsh and speaks fast. There are lots of things I can’t do. Giving the idea that disabled people are ‘superhumans’ who can do anything is simply not helpful. It implies that if they can’t do something than they are a failure and they aren’t trying hard enough. Following that logic, I am a failure.
Personally I don’t want to be seen as superhuman, nor do I want to be seen as a failure. I am a normal girl; I work hard, love my family and friends and do my best to be a good mum. I hope one day that the media and society in general develop a positive attitude towards disability. One in which we are not demonised or made out to be special just because we have disabilities, but one in which we are looked at as individuals and are respected regardless of what we can and can’t do. Our disability awareness workshops run by Enhance the UK teach people about disability and encourage people to consider the way disability is too often portrayed.