There is one good thing about being made redundant this summer, and that is that I have been able to watch so much of the Olympics and Paralympics. And these occasions, along with the major international football tournaments, are really the only time I am interested in sport.
With the Paralympics coming to an end tonight, the closing ceremony will mark the signing off of a great summer of sport for this country. But I am not writing about that this time. It is the Paralympians themselves that I want to write about.
I grew up in an era where words like “spaz” and “flid” were not seen as derogatory as they so obviously are. They were just words used against those who got a question wrong in class, or did something stupid in the playground and I am sure that some of my teachers used them as well. I don’t think any thought was given to what they truly meant or who they really represented.
Questions are being asked about the legacy of the Paralympics. Questions like has it made us more aware of people with disabilities? Has it made us more tolerant and will the swell of loveliness that we have been riding due to the Paralympics, continue with us being more compassionate after the sport euphoria has died down, and London returns to its usual pattern?
I hope so, because I have been truly humbled by what these athletes have achieved and take my hat off to them because they are absolutely bloody marvellous! They have made me laugh with their humour and characters, made me cry and made me gasp in amazement watching them. I really think that the Paralympics absolutely deserve to be as hyped up as the main Olympics; they are just as important and I have loved watching them.
I want to make sure that I never forget the respect I have for these people because watching them makes me ask myself what is normal, what is a disability? These folks are doing things that I could never do and have proven to me that whatever problems they have/are facing, be it mental or physical, they have pushed through and continue to push through so many barriers to be where they are today.
However, I don’t want my respect to be reserved just for these athletes. I need to continue to remember the many, many people out there with the same health problems, the same barriers to break, because I will pass them in the street, be on public transport with them, stand in a queue behind them in the shops and work with them in the office environment. I need to remember patience, if they are not as quick as I am at something, or can’t get on or off a bus quickly, because I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, and I have no more rights than they have.
I hope these games will have given hope to anyone who has any kind of disability who think they have no future, because look at what this lot have achieved! That could be you in four years time! And even if you don’t take up any kind of sport, know that you can still do so much, you should not think you are invisible or useless, because if you think you are, then so am I.