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The Ellie Effect

6 September 2012

The euphoric image of our 17 year old Paralympic poster girl, beaming from ear to ear after winning gold brought tears to my, and I’m guessing thousands of others, eyes. You can’t fail to be moved by Ellie and the Paralympians overwhelming joy, passion, skill and self-effacing style. They truly are super-human.

So will the Paralympics be the tipping point for disability? Will the true legacy of the Olympics be acceptance of a multicultural Britain so evident in the jubilant faces of Jessica, Mo and Christine – and will the images of success and achievement of Ellie, Sarah and David remain with us to create a culture of tolerance for those of different abilities?

Yes, I hope the paras will increase the confidence of those less able to pursue their dreams, provide role models, inspire more disabled athletes and make us all more comfortable celebrating people who have overcome multifarious hurdles to achieve success on their terms.

Yet my fear is that the focus on physical rather than learning disability whilst welcomed may not have the much lauded effect on the status of all disability.

I applaud the 10 British and 120 learning disabled athletes who are competing but saddened that this is only in three categories – athletics, swimming and table tennis.

So whilst we are promised there will be more athletes with learning disabilities at the next Games in Rio in 2016 and whilst the medieval sounding ‘stringent testing criteria’ will need to be applied, our aim surely must be to broaden the Paralympics to all.

Now that would be a superhuman legacy.