Given the start of the Paralympic Games last night it is hardly surprising that disability is a topic or theme on TV, the radio and in the press. Even the Simpsons’ satire yesterday evening – the one where the school is split into girls and boys and Liza dresses up as a boy and becomes the object of bullies – had a powerful message regarding equality. It should be about seeing the strength while not ignoring the ‘weakness’, but accommodating or compensating for it, that it is the lack of x, y or z that makes the disability more of an issue that it needs to be.
Is it just about money?
It took a Paralympian wheelchair basketball player to point out how countries that hadn’t the provision of the richer economies had older, clunkier, heavier wheelchairs.
I watched a piece of theatre for deaf people by deaf people. It reminded me of comia del arte – highly physical and rumbustious. I hadn’t the slightest clue what was going on, certainly no idea what was being said. Had I someone twlking it through how different would the experience have been.
How do the movies portray disability? From Richard III and Frankenstein, to Finding Nemo, Slum Dog Millionaire and Avatar. Even Dr Who where Darleks, and certainly Davros, are disabled beings in wheelchairs with a wheelie bin, plunger and egg- whisk for limbs.
It takes being ill, of confined to a bed or wheelchair to get some sense if it, or having a close relation, infant or elderly in a state, or phase of amelioration or deterioration to feel it personally. I broke a leg badly enough and far enough away from home to require amabulances and special flights, hospitalisation then a wheelchair. For some months in order to get into the garden I pulled myself about quite happily on a large wooden tea-tray. We knew it was temporary, indeed within six months I was riding a bike and walking with a stick and six months after that competing in the swimming pool and on the rugby pitch – wherein lies a stark difference, the disabled person is very likely to be set inspite or despite of treatment and how the disability came about, indeed their situation is likely to be more complex with medications, care, a deteriorating prognosis even.
There is mental illness and disability in the family too – depression, learning difficulties, aspergers and autism. I’d even dare to say that being exceptionally bright or that ridiculously isolating term ‘gifted’ in the case of my late father isolated him.
If we wish for inclusivity when will the Olympics and Paralympics play out simultaneously?
Perhaps at a club level I should suggest that once a year we do this – having an inclusive event in contrast to the other exclusive events we run or take part in.
As I reflect I need of course to bring it back to H810.
The Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) runs a workshop for coaches who work with disabled athletes – there is an online module too which I will sign up for. Annually we apply for a national award called Swim21 which includes an audit in relation to disabled swimmers – we ticked every box without question with qualified personal, watertime set aside, entry into internal and external galas and working with our local leisure providers but is this enough? If the bar isn’t that high no wonder it is easy to get over.