Aug. 30, 2012

Expectations of the Paralympics

Gregor Wolbring, Cumming School of Medicine, writing in Conversation Canada
Will you watch as much of the Paralympics as you did of the Olympics?
Will you watch as much of the Paralympics as you did of the Olympics?

What do disabled people in the UK and the non-disabled British Public expect from the Paralympic Games?

Let me give you some results of different polls reflecting the British public and disabled people’s and their families attitudes toward and views of the Paralympics.

Poll of the British Public

UK poll performed by COMRES/ ITV NEWS reveals:

  • 10% say they are planning to watch more of the London 2012 Paralympic Games on TV than they did the Olympics, 45% plan to watch about the same amount and 37% plan to watch less of the Paralympics coverage.

In the UK the coverage seems to be extensive. However what is the coverage outside the UK especially in comparison to the Olympics. May be readers of this blog piece could send numbers as comments to the blog?

The poll reveals that

  • 84% believe that the Paralympic Games will increase awareness of disabled people excelling in sports;

  • 83% are proud of British Paralympic athletes

  • 43% say they are excited about the Paralympics, with 38% who disagree.

  • 47% think that the status of the Paralympic Games would be improved if they were held at the same time as the Olympics events. A third 33% disagree.

I will cover the issue of the issue of whether to have separate Olympics and Paralympics or not in a later blog piece.


  • 62% say that the Paralympic Games are worth the cost to the public purse, while 17% disagree.

Poll of disabled people (UK)

The UK disability charity Scope commissioned a ComRes poll in August 2011(full data here)

In the Scope news release related to the survey one reads:

Paralympics has a crucial role to play at a time when attitudes towards disabled people are getting worse.

The news release states further that, “Between April and September this year the number of disabled people claiming they experienced aggression, hostility or name calling saw a dramatic hike from 41% to 66%.”

Other findings of the poll are:

  • Only 32% of disabled people plan to watch all or most of the events; while one-fifth say that the Paralympic Games make them feel second class (20%). And while the wider public is enthusiastic about the potential impact of the Paralympics only 18% are excited enough that they intend to watch most or all of the games.

  • the support for a combined Olympic/Paralympic event is favoured by 65% for disabled people (65%) and 62% of parents of disabled children

As the news release states:“ A majority of British adults say that combining the Olympics and Paralympics would help disabled athletes to be taken more seriously (54%) and it would improve society’s views about disabled people (52%).”

The poll also reveals striking difference in perception between disabled people and the British public; e.g.

  • 50% of the British public see the Games to empower disabled people but only 23% of disabled people think like that.

  • 4% of the British public feel the games are patronizing versus 22% of disabled people

  • 4% of the British public think the games make disabled people feel like second class people versus 20% of disabled people who voice that sentiment

This vast discrepancy in perception needs more investigtion I think. Finally a 29th August Scope news release states:

  • “67% of the general public will watch the Paralympic Games. The figure was 48% when a similar poll was conducted before the Olympics”

  • “62% of disabled people and their families believe the Paralympics can improve attitudes towards disabled people”

  • 76% believe “a greater presence in day-to-day life would make a difference”

  • “86% referred to the positive impact of greater public discussion about the issues affecting disabled people”

  • “87% said more disabled people in the media would have a positive effect on attitudes”.

Given certain bad news for disabled people and their families reported recently in the UK (here and here and here) one can only hope that the Paralympics will indeed be a catalyst for positive change many believe they are. Only the future will tell.