Paralympics opening ceremony: Disabled audience reaction
Never before in the UK has three-and-a half-hours of prime time television been focussed entirely on disability, let alone performed before an 80,000-strong capacity audience and beamed around the world. The Paralympic Opening Ceremony was new territory - and so the directors had an arguably more difficult job than Danny Boyle, who took charge of last month's Olympic ceremony.
Wednesday's show was co-directed by Jenny Sealey, a veteran disability arts practitioner and head of Graeae, the oldest and best-known disability-lead theatre company in the UK. Jenny is deaf and has a long history of successful collaborations between disabled and non-disabled performers. She also has written a range of disability-themed theatre productions.
But the message coming through before the ceremony was that it would "inspire" - a word that sparks dread into the hearts of many disabled people. Many feel it is over-used, so much so that it has begun to lose its meaning in relation to disability.
So disabled people tuned in with a sense of trepidation, a hope that it would not be patronising, and - with so many people watching - anticipation that the show was important enough to create a lasting impression. But what would that impression be?
Amongst the acrobatics, the light shows and the electric atmosphere as the athletes entered the stadium, there was one phrase that stood out.
"Those who can, please stand for the National Anthem."
By including the three words "those who can", the directors released all spectators with mobility impairments from the guilt usually attached to being unable to stand when everyone else does.
And so the tone was set for a showcase of inclusion and diversity, which appeared to strike the difficult balance between inspiring the masses and eliciting pride and solidarity amongst even the most critical disabled commentators.
It helped of course, to have buy-in from the man regarded as the most famous disabled person in the world.
Professor Stephen Hawking's changeable health often forces him to make public appearances from home, via big screens. But he took centre-stage at the Olympic Park, speaking in his trademark robotic tones. A man who has almost no voluntary bodily movement and needs round-the-clock care to live his full and busy life, delivered a monologue that could only have come from him, in a style all of his own.
Including someone with Stephen Hawking's level of disability in the ceremony was also a reminder that not every disabled person is a potential Paralympian and that this is OK - the contributions of those who will never podium are just as important as medal-winners.
The umbrella dance which followed lived up to the billing that performers would manipulate their bodies in unexpected ways. This segment was said to be inspired by the unpredictable British weather, but social media sites were soon buzzing with disabled viewers discussing the unpredictable nature of brollies themselves. Blind people don't use them for fear of gouging out the eyes of fellow pedestrians. Wheelchair users need both hands to manoeuvre so would require a special holder to make an umbrella work. Ditto those on crutches. But as juggling - which also featured - can be tricky for many disabled people and even biting an apple is difficult for some, it was acknowledged that almost no activity is accessible to everyone.
And it overran. It was hard for the organisers to predict how long it would take thousands of disabled athletes, their coaches and even their service animals to make their way in to the stadium. It took about an hour longer than expected. A logistical nightmare and hard to replicate in rehearsals. After all, disabled people are encouraged to pre-board planes and trains, and to enter theatres before the rest of the audience, because we just take longer.
During the lengthy athletes' parade, disabled and non-disabled viewers alike lit up the social networks with a game given the hashtag #paralympicperving, a rather un-PC activity which involved spotting Paralympians considered easy on the eye. There were too many to mention here. Disabled people often complain about not being seen as sexual beings, so maybe this will be one of the perceptions destined for change during the Games.
The third part of the night took celebrating disability to a whole new level. I do not believe that an occasion exists, outside a dedicated arts festival, where so many disabled performers and artists of note have shared a stage. There were no non-disabled actors in disabled roles to be seen, and the talent was world-class.
A highlight was when Orbital and the cast of Graeae's Ian Dury musical Reasons to be Cheerful performed the disability rights song Spasticus Autisticus, while performers staged a choreographed protest. A bold move by the directors, nodding to the struggle disabled people have had to obtain basic rights over the years, including the right to receive assistance to live independently in their own homes, rather than in institutions.
But it was also an acknowledgement of the current wave of unrest amongst disabled campaigners, protesting against cuts to disability benefits and problems with how people are being assessed as fit for work.
The company carrying out these assessments is Atos. Atos is also one of the Paralympic sponsors, which doesn't sit well with some campaigners. There have even been rumours that some athletes hid their Atos-branded lanyards during the ceremony in protest.
The decision to openly acknowledge the impact disabled people can have when protesting was a real mood-changer, and may even have brought the Paralympics a new wave of disabled followers.
"I am what I am". This was the phrase which echoed around the stadium as athletes, officials and audience filed out of the Olympic Park shortly after midnight. An up-lifting sentiment which reaffirmed the words spoken by Stephen Hawking earlier in the show: "There is no such thing as a standard or run-of-the-mill human being."
Something which will become ever clearer over the next 11 days, when athletes of all shapes, sizes and impairments compete at the highest level.