Perception plays a vital role in our everyday societies. Like it or not, humans are biased creatures, often letting mere appearances drive our first impressions and everything that follows. Thus, our society has allowed prejudice to interfere with the way disability is viewed. Instead of perceiving it as a physical condition, many allowed their clouded judgment to formulate negative views. In return, these negative views influenced the way people interacted with individuals with disabilities while forming the way people with disabilities view their own roles in society. However, the Paralympics today are leading the positive change, transforming societal attitudes, and giving hope for a more equitable world.
Inspiring role models
No matter the medium, representation matters. The Paralympics provide kids with disabilities from all over the world with successful, inspiring figures to look up to. Figures that break all the barriers society often places on people with physical difficulties. When they witness Paraolypians achieving the impossible, the once denied world becomes a little more accessible.“If people can see me excel in my work, they will be inspired to do the same. I always think my disability has enabled me to think in different ways and employers greatly value that,” stated the four-time Paralympian, Sophie Christiansen.
The positive stories of the Paralympics’ participants initiate a fight against social constructs and for adversity. Moreover, though the coverage of the game was somehow lacking in the past, it’s turning better through time. For example, NBC will host its first-ever primetime coverage of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.
The competitive nature of the games is a driving force in the technological domain. True, the companies create the best equipment to help the participants compete and win. However, these innovations are also available to all people with disabilities. According to Ken Endo, CEO of the technology company Xiborg, the Paralympics are helping to make sports more accessible to everyone around the world. With new technological breakthroughs, people with disabilities will be able to navigate life a little easier than before.
However, even with all of these new technologies, it’s important to highlight the athlete’s effort and skill that permit them to join the games. The equipment certainly helps, but Paralympians are much more than their equipment. They are heroes who, through hard work and persistence, defy all barriers while reaching for the stars.
Impact on employment
Breaking social norms means so much more than a couple of hours of entertainment. The Paralympics impact reaches all domains, including employment. A research conducted in London post the 2012 games further proves this point. It discovered that the games caused 33% of the population to change their views toward people with disabilities. Thus, in the past five years, the number of employed people with disabilities increased by 1 million.
Brazil also serves as another proof of the games’ positive impact on employment. In 2009, when Rio de Janeiro won the right to stage the Paralympics, the number of employed people with disabilities used to be 280,00. However, in 2018, two years after the games, data shows that the number increased by almost 50%, reaching 418,000.
Moreover, even though Japan is yet to host the Paralympics, the public view is sifting. Historically, persons with disabilities have been on the edges of Japanese society. However, the 2020 Games are changing this,” stated the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), President Andrew Parsons.
“Growing awareness is slowly shifting attitudes and employers, many for the first time, are taking disability seriously and realizing the full benefits of having a diverse and inclusive workforce. It’s fantastic to see the number of persons with disabilities securing employment in the private sector in Japan is increasing at a faster rate than overall employment.”
“Most employers still fall short of the two percent government target for employing persons with disabilities, but I fully expect this figure to grow, especially next year when the Games take place. During the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, millions of Japanese people will witness the outstanding abilities of Para athletes first-hand and I am certain that this will transform attitudes towards disability and make Japan a more inclusive country for all,” he added.