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Paralympic glory masks reality says disability campaigner

A leading campaigner says that the glory of the Paralympics is masking the harsh reality of the struggles of the disabled in society.

Andrew Clark, of the Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS), said that the Paralympic Games is “a double-edged sword” in that “it both helps disabled people and, in other ways, makes their life more difficult.”

Buckinghamshire boasts that it is the home of Paralympic sport, with signs across the county – visible within a stone’s throw of Uxbridge town centre.

Mr Clark said although the Paralympics have raised awareness, it doesn’t reflect the majority of disabled people in the UK. He said: “The achievements of Paralympians has led to greater public intolerance for disabled people who cannot achieve elite sports status.”

Mr Clark explained: “Looking at disability sport, take-up of sport or physical activity by disabled people has not increased since the Paralympics. This is due, in our view, to the fact that the barriers to sport and activity facing disabled people are, on the whole, as high as ever.”

He continued saying that figures have shown that the rate of participation was 24% less than non-disabled adults. Mr Clark has named a number of causes, one in particular is that gyms, pools and activities are not catering for disabled people and cost and transports issues are still “significant barriers”.

“We strongly support inclusive sport for all, where disabled and non-disabled people can find equal value in activities together, rather than the development of isolationist and apartheid-model ‘disability sport’ activities.”

He said that it “reinforces public ignorance of the true nature of disability” - for example 70% of Paralympic sports involve wheelchairs and in reality, around 3% of disabled people actually use them.

Stoke Mandeville is to host a Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting ceremony alongside the winter games, the only place allowed to do so since the Paralympic games were created in the town in 1948.

The Winter Paralympic Games begin on March 8th in PyeongChang, South Korea.

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