Of Stickmen and Disability: a Real Paralympic Legacy

Kevin Hickman of the Inclusive Cycling Forum (and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain) considers the Paralympic Legacy - and where the real discrimination lies in society.

"Dad look! It's one of those runners. How fast does he run?"

Now that's progress. I'll gladly take that rather than comments like "it's just a man on a stick darling." Being mistaken for a paralympic sprinter instead of an ice lolly is no more correct, but it gets me through the hotel foyer with a lot more dignity.

Had Dad taken the little chap along to the velodrome he might've got closer to the truth. But it doesn't matter. That's not the point. The point is that saturating the media with nine days of disabled sport has changed the game, and the public's perception of disability has leapt forward because of it.

Not only can disabled people do some pretty cool stuff, despite having bits that don't or won't work properly, it turns out they're human too. All that footage, all those interviews, the disabled comedian shooting the BMX track in a wheelchair; everyone drew their own conclusion - they're not freaks or problems or people to be pitied, they're normal. Valuable, equal members of society.

The other message that came across loud and clear is that it's complicated! Dozens of classifications across several disciplines encompassing a huge range in ability. All ordered and explained by LEXI, without the need for a little man speared on a lolly pop stick. For elite sport it's about as inclusive as it can be.

Lots to like there, lots to be appreciative of, but what does it mean for everyday mobility and non-athletes like these?

The problem for many disabled cyclists isn't their disability, it's discrimination against cycling. Whether that's denying them the option to cycle in areas where mobility scooters are allowed, or the refusal to invest properly in appropriate, safe, cycle infrastructure. Similar to the paralympics, the solution is to get people to see beyond their current perception of cycling - something disabled cyclists and inclusive cycling can help with.

But what about the little chap who'd been to the olympic stadium? Like many of the disabled, children are fairly limited when it comes to an independent form of transport and for them cycling is a natural solution. So is it reasonable to expect a child to perform manoeuvres on the road that most adults wouldn't entertain? Or are children being discriminated against? What event would it take to change that?


I think we all know what we need to do to change that :)