The Paralympics tell us nothing about most sick or disabled people

I’m struggling to believe that I have to say this, I really am, but here goes:

The Paralympics tell us nothing about most sick or disabled people.

No, really, they don’t. The athletes taking part in the Paralympics, just like those in the Olympics, represent the elite. They are the people who are lucky enough to have time for training, money for equipment, the physical ability to push themselves that far. Just as you could not expect any person who is not yet disabled to run as fast as Usain Bolt or to dive with as much skill as Tom Daley, you cannot expect a disabled person to run like Oscar Pistorius or swim like Ellie Simmonds.

For sick or disabled people the struggle is not to get to Paralympic standard but to achieve the same standard as most people who are not disabled. That’s what disabled means. For whatever reason the combination of the way that society is arranged and the impairment that a person has means that they are unable to function in the same way as most. Disability makes everything harder. It makes things more exhausting. It makes things more expensive. It makes things take longer. Sickness and disability can require everything that a person has and still not allow them to function. For many when the impairment is too great no amount of adjustment or struggle can overcome that, although technology and the efforts of those around them can provide other means for a happy life.

For a lucky few that sickness or physical impairment is not a barrier to Paralympic greatness. Even then, though they may be able to run or swim or shoot they might still not be able to dress themselves or wash themselves or cook for themselves. We should celebrate their sporting abilities, but we must not think that sporting ability tells us anything else at all about Paralympic athletes or any other sick or disabled person.

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

7 thoughts on “The Paralympics tell us nothing about most sick or disabled people”

  1. Way to state the obvious although you could have summed it up with one statement which is

    Not everybody has what it takes to be an Olympic athlete!

    No further comment required. To single out the Paralympics was unnecessary.

    1. She wrote the post in disbelief which suggests it WAS necessary to tie the point to the Paralympics although it shouldn’t be… lots of people don’t really understand what life is like for disabled people.

  2. The Paralympics tell us nothing about most sick or disabled people.

    Maybe, but a lot of people have no interaction with disabled people. The Paralympics may tell them that in essence we are all the same and we are all different.

  3. I can identify as a near lifetime disabled person with what you have to say. I do wonder how many of the disabled contestants in the Paralympics actually have paid jobs and if so what type of job etc.? Is there any solid evidence to demonstrate that involvement in the Paralympics actually opens up employment related opportunities? No doubt the Gold medalists might achieve some short term monetary benefits. It would be both helpful and very important (given the political climate regarding disability at the moment) if someone somewhere is researching this event to provide the disabled community with all the important facts. It is just possible that something positive might emerge eventually. What do you think?

  4. Not to give an ‘opinion’ but personally my disability is caused by pain, I was mega sporty and fit and am only 25 and if I couldn’t use my legs and didn’t have any pain then I would compete in disabled sports and have a job, well try to get a job. But being in constant pain and taking a stupid amount of medications means I am disabled due to pain. It is not being disabled that makes me depressed, but spending every second in pain, the disability is second to pain. Not sure if I’ve explained myself properly there, have no intention to upset people. I juat wanted to chuck in that being in pain is a disability in itself and is seperate to what the paralympics is, if that makes sense!

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