Has the Paralympics inspired a societal change?

So the Paralympics 2012 has had a huge effect on London. As a nation we have become more informed about disability and the various types, we are more accepting, less judgemental and hopefully more inclusive. However, as a disabled member of society, I am not convinced this new understanding and acceptance will stick around for very long. Although there are measures to try and make sure that this wasn’t just a passing craze, human nature is human nature, and once the excitement of the Paralympics and sports has died down, disability will return to the taboo and ignored community of society. People will go back to staring at disability in the street with no sense of acceptable societal behaviour, it is human nature to be curious, it is plain rude to stare. Parents will return to hushing their children instead of offering an explanation, or simply ignoring the fact that their child is staring in the first place -why bother explaining disability, or that it is rude to stare at anyone -not just disabled people.

I think that when it comes to disability, things are tricky. Life is complicated and hard regardless of the extra curveballs thrown your way, but you find a way around the struggles even when it is frustrating and you get on with your life. The same concept applies with disability, however i think a big part of what makes living with a disability so much harder, can often be society’s attitude to it as a whole. Being stared at, talked about, ignored, everything in this world accommodates abled bodied people but throughout a disabled person’s life, there is a continuous underlying feeling of alienation from everything and everyone. I love my friends and family, but I am in many ways isolated from them. I cannot explain fully the things that bug me, upset me, the things I struggle with, the things that frustrate me, because ultimately they cannot understand and often would rather pretend those problems don’t exist. They want to, but they can’t- “Oh but you can do so much”, “you’re not hindered really, you do everything I do”, although in part they are correct, they are also so wrong. Yes I can get on with daily life, but it does not mean my disability is not hindering, it doesn’t mean there are doors that are closed off to me. It effects most things in my life, some things more than others, and in the disability scale, missing my right hand effects much less of my life  than other more debilitating disabilities. However, everyday faces struggles on top of daily life challenges, whether it’s frustration over the little tricky things, the alienation of being stared at, or the constant worry of what struggles my future holds, everyday is a struggle to feel in control of my life, to feel strong and happy, to feel included in society. Don’t get me wrong there are plenty of people in the world who are without a disability and face struggles everyday, I am not ignorant of this, but rather offering an insight to disability through my own experience.

And yet through this struggle and alienation I am trying my hardest to accept my disability as a part of myself as my whole, to be proud and strong, and not hide it, or resent it because regardless of my troubles, everything I have been through has made me who I am, and a large part of that is my disability. The reason I was bullied, was not directly aimed at my disability but rather a result of a teenager struggling with the realisation that her entire present and future was effected by it, combined with adolescent hormones and no other disabled person to talk to or expansive web resources to turn to, I was labelled ‘manic depressive’ and teased for most of my secondary education. As a teenager I was beginning to glimpse the change that my life was going to take, and my worry was not unfounded. As I’ve become older my disability has become  an increasingly bigger presence in my life, there are more things it effects, more issues that arise around it, and more frustrations that have become prominent in everyday life as I have become more independent and more interactive with society, which as a disabled child, does not effect you. I hope that the Paralympics has set a change in motion, I hope that more disabled communities become more accessible- my interaction with others with similar disabilities or other disabilities has been practically non-existant and I would like that to change, especially for disabled teens so that others can be spared the insecurity and unnecessary isolation that I went through.

One of my biggest fears is that society wont change and I will continue my life in a world where I am treated as an alien object to be stared at and society will continue its intolerance and judgement. I want disability hate crimes to stop, I want our society to support those who need it not judge them or treat them as lesser humans. I hope that the Paralympics was the first step in a snowballing change in attitudes, judgements, and categorisations of those of us who are not ‘superhuman’ but in fact perfectly human.

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