What is the legacy of the Paralympic Games?

Fireworks from the Paralympics closing ceremony

It's exactly one year since the London 2012 Paralympic Games began. Hopes were high for a positive legacy but a charity today says that disabled people are still waiting.

Lord Coe's closing speech at London 2012 drew attention to the Paralympic legacy. "I really genuinely think we have had a seismic effect in shifting public attitudes," he said. "I don't think people will ever see sport the same way again, I don't think they will ever see disability in the same way again."

The charity Scope today suggests a less than seismic shift. In a poll of 1000 disabled people, 81% say that public attitudes haven't improved in the last 12 months - in fact, 22% say they've got worse. The overwhelming majority of this latter group blame "benefit scrounger" rhetoric from politicians and the media.

Disability poll

The recent poll of disabled people commissioned by charity Scope found:

  • Nearly one in five (17%) of disabled people report they have either experienced hostile or threatening behaviour or even been attacked
  • 81% of disabled people say that attitudes towards them haven't improved in the last twelve months
  • 22% say that things have actually got worse
  • 84% say the 'benefit scrounger' rhetoric from politicians and the media has had a negative effect on views of disabled people

Another new survey by Leonard Cheshire Disability claims that more than one in five disabled people say that intimidation and abuse prevent them from going out.

This time last year we were watching giant apples, disabled dancers suspended in mid-air doing an umbrella routine and scientist Stephen Hawking, all live from the stadium in an opening ceremony that made people sit up and pay attention. Lest we forget, it felt like disabled people were taking over the UK, with their sports taken seriously, huge crowds in the park and something new and positive in the air.

The Paralympics coverage by Channel 4 went on to win the TV Bafta for best sport and live event, despite strong competition from the BBC.

But the games took place against a backdrop of cuts to disability benefits, and a feeling of underlying dissent was apparent from the very start. The opening ceremony featured a choreographed protest symbolising the struggle towards disability rights.

A protester outside the Atos building

There were protests during the games against the involvement of Atos, the company which at the time ran the government's work capability assessment (WCA) process. This controversial programme determines whether people are fit for work or eligible for disability allowance. The government says it allows those who need help to be better targeted. But disabled campaigners said that WCA was "damaging and distressing". Some athletes reportedly hid lanyards printed with the Atos logo in protest.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are holding a week's worth of protests on the anniversary. DPAC's Linda Burnip says the legacy is going to become meaningless as benefit cuts begin to kick in and materially affect the lives of disabled people. She hopes that a visit this week to the UK by the United Nations special rapporteur (special representative) on housing, may bring about change. "In October a second rapporteur is meeting with us around the subject of care support funding, WCA and closure of the independent living fund," says Burnip.

Protesters against the bedroom tax stand outside the High Court

The jury's also out on another legacy goal - public transport accessibility. The campaign group Transport For All (TFA) is unhappy that seven stations on the new Crossrail route through London will not be step-free. It's holding a legacy torch relay today along the route of the line, which is still under construction.

The sheen may be wearing off our memory of the Games, but there is a consensus that from a sporting point of view, the event was a runaway success. Elite disability sport is now taken seriously in a way few commentators had expected, and Johnnie Peacock, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir - to name a few - have become household names.

The team behind London 2012 hoped that the Olympic and Paralympic Games would "inspire a generation".

In July, Sebastian Coe called for a 10-year legacy plan and then resigned as the government's Olympic legacy ambassador. He felt that a positive legacy was more likely to happen without him as people assumed he held all responsibility.

Previously from Ouch!

Paralympians after the ceremony

"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," writes Emma Tracey on the Paralympics opening ceremony .

At the end of the Games last year, veteran Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson urged everyone to keep the momentum up, saying: "You can't wait for someone else to do legacy, you've got to take a bit of responsibility for yourself."

Disabled people are still celebrating the spirit of the Paralympics, Martyn Sibley who co-edits the online magazine Disability Horizons, will soon be travelling in his powered wheelchair from John O'Groats to Land's End for the Britain's Personal Best project. He says he's making the journey because he doesn't want the light to go out.

And Alexa Wilson from Wiltshire has seen this kind of do-it-yourself legacy in action. She is mum to 12-year-old Ellie who has autism. She says that in her experience, the Paralympics have given a new and helpful focus to people who want to do something positive for her daughter's school and that Ellie is already benefiting.

"Often in the past people didn't know what to do to help," she says. "They knew they wanted to do something for the local special school and we've had fantastic help before, but now they're coming forward with opportunities for the children to go sailing, for instance.

"Rather than donating some shrubs to the sensory garden which they did the year before last, they're now suggesting doing something sporty - thanks to the Paralympics. That's inclusive and healthy too. It's not like the children only want to wander round the sensory garden all day."

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  • Comment number 12.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The legacy we have is the same as every other country has after the games.

    A big debt for the public purse, all to fund a massive advertising campaign for the "sponsors" like Mc D's who made enough money to build several resturants on site and then knock em down after.

    What did it do for the disabled?


    But then it's all about private business making money folks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.


    What Legacy?"

    Exactly. Being a full time carer the only change in attitude to disability I've seen is when people confronted with the evidence of the difficulties faced by disabled people they simply switch off compassion and either ignore it , or belittle it. The most obvious example being the government/DWP/IDS and their backing to 'official' deriding the disabled.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It is just a politically correct by-product of the Olympic Games.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Nothing, IDS and his continuous assault on the poor and disabled have ensured pretty much all of us are worse off than a year ago and it is only getting worse.

    They are already looking at putting us into 'mandatory residential training' which sounds a hell of a lot like a work camp.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    What Legacy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    The Legacy?, welfare cuts for the disabled, Remploy closing up and a media who use one bad case of benefit fraud to tarnish those who are sick and unabled to work. IDS a man who worked for the arms industry supplying weapons to kill, torture and maim. No wonder Cameron is so keen on Bombing Syria, must be a nice little earner for his nest egg.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Unfortunately, the positive glow which lit up the Paralympics was quickly extinguished by those who decided to poor water on the challenges of the disabled.

    If businesses require subsidy to accommodate those who were never well enough to work, and the increasing bill for care homes casts a shadow over increasing unaffordable home care, nobody will complain?

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Why does there have to be a 'legacy' about anything that is done nowadays? Why cant people just enjoy an event for what it is without having to sign up to some politically correct mumbo jumbo?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    its simple it wont make a profit for dave and his millionaire mates so it will according to the tory pr department aka the BBC be worthless.
    Only a fool believes anything the lying BBC ever claim

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    The only people who expected (or claimed) that there would be a legacy of either the Olympic or Paralympic games were those who were already sport fanatics or who had other vested interests they wanted the taxpayers to fund

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Iain Duncan Smith declaring more disabled people as capable of doing work.

    ^Legacy of the paralympic games.


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