Daily triumphs, skewed perceptions

I‘m one of the many people who marvelled at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships this week with the cream of disabled sporting talent competing against each other on the track and field. With SCI people featuring not just as athletes but also as presenters and commentators, it’s been a powerful example of what SCI people can do after injury or diagnosis. With great courage and relentless determination, our disabled athletes have run, pushed, thrown and jumped their way to medals, world records and more, and in doing so have won our great admiration and respect. Meanwhile, disabled commentators and experts have helped the less sporting amongst us to understand the often complex rules and categories devised to give all a level playing field.

Disabled athletes are important role models in showing what can be achieved with grit, ambition and support and their visibility as disabled sportspeople has transformed public perception. But for many SCI people, particularly those newly injured, that lifestyle seems a long way away.   In an age where there is still discrimination, lack of opportunity and social isolation (a recent report showed that one in four people would avoid a conversation with someone with a disability), it’s important for the public to see that each disabled person has their own unique value and that the community as a whole is as diverse as any community.

Each demonstrates the huge breadth of the SCI experience as well as the common ground – the desire to have choice, to be respected and lead a fulfilled life, however you choose to express that. These are values that drive SIA’s work, day in, day out. I saw a good example this week of another battle that must be won. For Gail Yandle, a ventilated C4 tetraplegic following a riding accident as well as an increasing number of people like her across the country, freedom of choice on where and how to live is under threat as cuts to care packages continue. Her goal is not Paralympic gold but instead the right to live at home with her family and to win the battle to secure a funding package that lets her do this. We’re proud to wave the flag and be part of the campaign to get Gail and the many others in her situation the help and support they need and deserve.

So, a great hurrah not just for the gold medal winners this week but also for those everyday triumphs of going out for the first time after injury, getting back into work or behind the wheel. Small successes maybe, the lack of public fanfare making them no less important, but certainly worth our celebration.

The desire to have choice, to be respected and lead a fulfilled life, however you choose to express that, are all values that drive SIA’s work, day in, day out. We are at the forefront of the fight to secure fair funding for those with the greatest care needs and are campaigning hard for equality of access, fair and speedy assessments and a commitment to put the person’s needs at the heart of decision making.

It’s important that the full breadth of the SCI experience is heard. And it’s never been more vital. So, a great hurrah not just for the gold medal winners this week but also for those everyday triumphs of going out for the first time after injury, getting back into work or behind the wheel. Small successes maybe, the lack of public fanfare making them no less important, but certainly worth our celebration and support.