We are all different

The Paralympic Games of London 2012 have had a lasting effect on many of us, and much has been written and spoken about the “eye-opening” which we experienced. Many of us have been in complete awe of the competitors – we have watched in disbelief as “disabled” competitors have achieved the unimaginable.

Much has been discussed about prejudice, and how we individually react to disability. In a recent blog post, I suggested that “disability” was too negative a term, and proposed that “differently abled” would be more appropriate. I visited the Paralympic Games myself and was truly amazed by the achievements of these sportsmen and women, and have changed my view on this.

Matt Stutzman, born without arms, won the silver medal in archery at the Paralympic Games. He also holds the Guinness World Record for the longest shot – not by a disabled archer, but by anyone.
Matt Stutzman, archer[Photo courtesy of The Daily Telegraph, AP]

He said “Around the athletes’ village people keep coming up to me and asking what sport I do. Most reckon I’m a swimmer. One guy thought I did basketball. That’s some idea, a guy with no arms playing basketball. When I say I’m an archer, they say, ‘So how do you shoot the bow?’ I say: ‘With my feet, doesn’t everybody?’

(Corporal) Rory Mackenzie, whose leg was blown off by a roadside explosive in Iraq climbed a staircase to the top of a 40-foot platform to deliver a speech during the Closing Ceremony. Afterwards he said “I’ve lost one leg and it’s a pain in the arse (literally). But I’m not disabled. I mean, I’m more able than a lot of the people. Handicapped is a term I like, and that’s what I call myself“.
Corporal Rory Mackenzie[Photo courtesy of BBC, Getty Images]

One of the great things about the Paralympic Games has been seeing more open discussion about disability. For the athletes the only thing which was important was their performance. They certainly didn’t seem to get too hung up on terms such as “handicapped” or “disabled” – they were there on merit; on ability. They focused on what they could do, rather than what they couldn’t do. Why do we find that so hard to understand?

Yes, we’re differently abled, but isn’t that just a long-handed way of saying we’re all different?

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