From the distant sidelines: stories of experiencing the 2012 Paralympics from disabled people
This source preferred by Dan Jackson
Start date: 13 November 2013
The explicit aim of the 2012 Paralympics was to “transform the perception of disabled people in society” (Channel 4) and drawing on findings from a two year longitudinal study which explored everyday lived experiences of disability and engaging with disability sport, this paper offers rich insight into the various ways disabled people engaged with the Paralympics both as a sporting event, mediated narrative and as a opportunity for social change.
Our disabled participants’ experiences of watching disabled sport were contradictory and double-edged. Because many people watched the Paralympics in ways that framed disabled athletes as both ‘elite’ and ‘sportspeople’, disability as the defining feature of the viewing experience slipped into the background. For some, the Paralympics were inspirational, motivational, and overdue recognition for disabled people in society. Others were unable to watch on account of not wanting to be reminded of their disability. And for others these changes replaced one stereotype with another: one form of being patronised (as ill) with a different form (as hero).
In everyday life, it was apparent that for a moment in time during the Paralympics, several of the disabled people we interviewed had experienced some change in the way unknown non-disabled people interacted with them in public spaces, with a general sense of ‘admiration’ appearing to have displaced sympathy, pity or fear. However, for disabled people this narrative of vague ‘admiration’ can be experienced as a move from general impatience to unrealistic expectations of their abilities, or at times simply as inappropriate and patronising praise. It was also clear that some of the disabled interviewees not only felt sceptical of the current ‘buzz’ around disability, but that they saw a gulf between their own struggles to live within wider infrastructures (such as access to facilities and transportation) and the financially-supported achievements of elite Paralympians; a disconnect they worried would be missed by able-bodied people. Emphasising its temporariness, several participants were sceptical of the extent of actual change in society that might occur as a direct result of the Paralympics.
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Authors: Alexander, J.
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Journal: Reframing Disability?: Media, (Dis)Empowerment, and Voice in the 2012 Paralympics
© 2015 Taylor & Francis. All rights reserved. The London 2012 Paralympic Games - the biggest, most accessible and best-attended games in the Paralympics' 64-year history - came with an explicit aim to "transform the perception of disabled people in society," and use sport to contribute to "a better world for all people with a disability." This social agenda offered the potential to re-frame disability; to symbolically challenge "ableist" ideology and to offer a reinvention of the (dis)abled body and a redefinition of the possible. This edited collection investigates what has and is happening in relation to these ambitions. The book is structured around three key questions: 1. What were the predominant mediated narratives surrounding the Paralympics, and what are the associated meanings attached to them? 2. How were the Paralympics experienced by media audiences (both disabled and non-disabled)? 3. To what extent did the 2012 Paralympics inspire social change? Each section of this book is interspersed with authentic "voices" from outside academia: broadcasters, athletes and disabled schoolchildren.