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Access: The Paralympics and visibility

9 Responses

  • Angela Hart,

    Great post Paul, I couldn't agree more.

    At the moment because of yet another battle we are fighting, the line

    As well as investigating and holding to account those who make decisions which are important in disabled people's lives.

    resonates particularly strongly. In the world of disability support the system is monopolistic, meaning there is no alternative, and there is no objective review process. Powerlessness of the disabled person is built in.

    Paralympians, like Olympians, are a small elite peak performance group, which most of us recognise can never include us. But we can and do admire them and they certainly deserve it. It was fantastic being able to see the Paralympics on free to air TV. Sport has enormous benefits to all those who participate, not just related to physical fitness but social benefits and access to others' knowledge and experience. For people who are often isolated by society, disability sport is a multi-purpose positive activity.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart,

    There's a welcome home parade planned for tomorrow, Friday, at the AUT Millennium Centre on the North Shore

    http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/sport/313890/paralympic-heroes-return-home-from-rio-games

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Attitude TV should be congratulated for their excellent coverage of the Paralympics that was shown on TVNZ. The interviewers and front people were former Paralympians. Attitude has supported disability sport for many years, including with several annual Attitude awards.

    The Paralympics aren't particularly new. They go back a few decades. There were also Paraplegic games including some in Dunedin in 1974 alongside the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch. They were quite well covered in the local media.

    But there are a couple of things that worry me about the Paralympics. A few years ago the Hallberg Trust decided to spot and nurture potential Paralympians. That has been a successful strategy, but it meant the Hallberg Trust no longer funded things like swimming lessons for young autistic or Down Syndrome kids. Many of them can access Special Olympics but not until they are older. SO still has a vision of including everyone and as a consequence the SO barely gets a mention in the media. Not much elite sporting stuff.

    The other aspect is disability as 'inspiration porn'. Much media portrayal of Paralympians internationally has been as initially tragic, and then heroic when they win medals. There is a clip going around social media of a Belgian Paralympian supporting their euthanasia legislation which she intends to use later - so the message is tragic, heroic, then better off dead once you have stopped inspiring us - us being the able bodied voyeuristic viewers.

    Having said that I think those young NZ team members have refreshingly open and comfortable attitudes to impairment.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    Attitude has supported disability sport for many years

    The programme has been fixated on elite sport since its inception, which has really affected their framing of disability.

    But yes, good to see the Paralympic team outperforming many ordinary Olympic athletes, and getting media coverage for it. Hopefully that will be recognised when funding is re-allocated.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19706 posts Report Reply

  • Howard Edwards, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    But there are a couple of things that worry me about the Paralympics. A few years ago the Hallberg Trust decided to spot and nurture potential Paralympians. That has been a successful strategy, but it meant the Hallberg Trust no longer funded things like swimming lessons for young autistic or Down Syndrome kids. Many of them can access Special Olympics but not until they are older. SO still has a vision of including everyone and as a consequence the SO barely gets a mention in the media. Not much elite sporting stuff.

    A thought-provoking article by the often-controversial Chris Rattue in the Herald touches on this point and others. And not just in relation to the Paralympics but to sport vs high performance sport in general.

    Albany • Since Apr 2013 • 66 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    But there are a couple of things that worry me about the Paralympics. A few years ago the Hallberg Trust decided to spot and nurture potential Paralympians. That has been a successful strategy, but it meant the Hallberg Trust no longer funded things like swimming lessons for young autistic or Down Syndrome kids. Many of them can access Special Olympics but not until they are older. SO still has a vision of including everyone and as a consequence the SO barely gets a mention in the media. Not much elite sporting stuff.

    It’s deeply unfortunate that it’s a zero-sum game in that way. I feel good that I spent a lot of time when our boys were young getting them out on the street or round to the park to play with balls and frisbees. That helped ease the fact of them being (sometimes amusingly) unsuited to team sport.

    The other aspect is disability as ‘inspiration porn’. Much media portrayal of Paralympians internationally has been as initially tragic, and then heroic when they win medals.

    John Campbell, bless his heart, tipped over the line a bit in one interview with Sophie Pascoe. No one should deny the remarkable achievements of our Paralympians, but I’m wary of inspirational narratives about them overcoming their disabilities to excel.

    As I wrote on Facebook that day:

    But it’s useful to remember that, in general, people with disability have as much to do with Paralympians as any of us do with Olympians. And maybe sometimes the rest of us could ease up on the inspirational thing a bit. Because many – most – people with disability don’t have all that much use for inspirational role models and the overcoming narrative. They really just want the opportunity for a good life. A life where they’re included. An ordinary life, even.

    But Paul’s making a different point in his post, really – a more nuanced point about visibility and the meanings of accessibility.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22825 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Oscar is swimming at the Special Olympics Trans Tasman meeting at the end of November in Hamilton. Only a few people from each region were selected (due to numbers) and so it will be sort of an elite. All run by volunteers and the athletes are all doing extra training in preparation. I wonder if it will get any coverage.

    The Special Olympics National Games are being held in Wellington(across various venues) in November next year. There will be over 1000 athletes and probably a similar number of volunteers. There is a new category for SO called Unified whereby anyone can join a team. Hopefully, that will make a splash.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3214 posts Report Reply

  • Angela Hart,

    At grassroots level Parafed is by far the more important organisation for physical disability sport and recreation. Halberg has focussed on high performance and that has resulted in high visibility this year, largely because of Attitude Picture's coup in getting the screening rights here.

    But without appropriate support at grassroots, elite sport doesn't happen. Chris Rattue makes a good point in the article Howard Edwards has linked to above.

    Because of its choice to promote high performance sport and because of the Halberg Awards, Halberg is known to most people. Parafed is much less well known, and much less well funded. That needs to change if we are to keep our Paralympic dreams.

    Christchurch • Since Apr 2014 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    And completing the circle, a Paralympian replaces Paul Gibson (policy expert) as our Disability Commissioner. I'm hoping for a pleasant surprise a la Susan Devoy, but have to wonder who else applied, who appointed, and what the selection criteria were?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19706 posts Report Reply

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