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Archives for August 2012

Complicated rules - but it's the atmosphere that really counts

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 17:13 UK time, Friday, 31 August 2012

Yevheniy Bohodayko of Ukraine swims in the Men's 50m Butterfly-S7 heat

The rules governing the Paralympics swimming classes can be bewildering, but they pale into insignificance once you get caught up in the action.

Six hundred swimmers are competing for a total of 148 medals at the Paralympics. At the Olympics, just 34 medals were up for grabs in the pool.

Paralympics swimming is divided into a mind-boggling number of classifications and events - so there are many opportunities to get a medal.

At the Aquatics Centre, my mind is not only occupied with Team GB's medal prospects, but also how to get a handle on who is swimming when, why, and if I'm honest, how.

A number of my fellow spectators have taken the bewildering complexity of it all in their stride and done their homework.

One - Peter - says he watched an explanation of all the classifications with his family before travelling to the Olympic Park from Manchester. He explains his understanding of the system.

"There's S1 to S10. They are all grouped with the same ability in each section."

Dong Lu of China and Nyree Kindred of Great Britain compete in the Women's 100m Backstroke

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The classifications Peter refers to represent physically disabled swimmers and only cover freestyle, butterfly and backstroke events.

Most of these categories also have races in SM - individual medley and SB - breast stroke.

And that's not even all the categories.

S11 to S13 athletes have a visual impairment and S14s have an intellectual disability.

To make sense of it all, Peter and family have brought their tablet computers along to refer to as and when necessary.

Next I meet Anna, who has also been to the cycling - it's at least as complex in how it categorises riders. "I admit to I don't know the fine principles behind everything," she says. "When you see a British person you just cheer, that's the important thing."

Hannah Russell of Great Britain competes in the Women's 400m Freestyle

And as the competition gets going, it is obvious most people have the same idea - a deafening cheer goes up around the Aquatic Centre.

Cheers turn to roars as British swimmers Nyree Kindred and Hannah Russell take silver.

And then it's time for the men's S7 100m, with Jonathan Fox representing Team GB. He broke a world record earlier in the day so hopes are high that he will get a gold medal.

As Fox and the other athletes take their positions, my sighted assistant points out their varying degrees of mobility impairment. Swimmers arrive to take part in the same race on crutches, in wheelchairs or supported by another person.

As Sarah, another spectator, reminds me on my way in to the stadium, "It is not about their ability to get to the water's edge, it is about their ability once they get in the pool."
The IPC's description of Fox's S7 category bears this out:

"This profile is designated for athletes with one leg and one arm amputation on opposite sides, double leg amputations or a paralysis of one arm and one leg on the same side. Moreover, swimmers with full control over arms and trunk and some leg function can compete in this class."
Jonathan Fox of Great Britain prepares to compete

Fox - who has cerebral palsy - wins his race, nabbing Britain's only swimming gold of the evening.

Nineteen races take place over a four-hour period at this event. As we get to grips with the classifications, our attention is drawn to the impairments of the athletes.

Young fans cheer on the swimmers

My assistant Sam informs me that in some races with athletes who have a higher level of physical impairment, swimmers of short stature start from seats while others enter the water before they begin.

As the stadium empties, I grab a chat with fellow spectator Lucy. She has been captivated by the various ways in which swimmers prepare for their events.

"I found it quite fascinating how they got in and out of the water. It makes it more real. And how simple it is to put their leg on. They just start walking again. It makes you realise how normal it is."

I arrived at the Aquatic Centre slightly bemused by all the different classes and events. But over the course of the session, as the action unfolds and medals are won, the complexity of the classifications matters less and less.

As foam-fingered volunteers wish us good night, I'm completely caught up with the Paralympic spirit.

Blind man watching goalball - silence please

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 09:45 UK time, Friday, 31 August 2012

GB v China women's goalball

At the Copper Box in the Olympic Park on Thursday, there's no expectation of gold, silver or bronze for Team GB.

On day one of the blind person's sport of goalball, Britain's men are up against world champions Lithuania, and the women play China - who also happen to be the women's world champions. Perhaps not the most promising of starts for our teams. But these are the group stages, with no knockouts at this stage.

I've not experienced the game since playing it as a pupil at a special school for blind children in Worcester in the early 1990s. It's a lot of fun to play, but I'm not sure how it will fare as a spectator sport, especially for sighted people. It has nothing to do with hand-eye coordination, as it is all about sounds and listening out for the heavy bell ball that jingles as it moves.

There are only six players on court at any one time, three for each team. All wear eyeshades with eye pads underneath to make absolutely sure no-one with residual vision has an advantage. Touch your eyeshades at the wrong time during a game and you face a penalty. Audio is all important and the crowd must keep absolutely silent while play is in progress.

A general view of goalball at the Copper Box

The very simple idea is that you try to throw the ball past the opposition players and into the goal which stretches the entire width of the court.

Despite feeling like I've come home to an accessible sport, I immediate encounter problems trying to enjoy the game - the audio description headset isn't delivering the descriptive commentary I expect.

Damon Rose

It turns out no-one is providing the extra commentary blind people are coming to expect at events and as an aid to watching television programmes at home. Oh, the irony that the only members of the crowd who can't enjoy the blind football are those who can't see. Luckily, I have an assistant who is able to give me his, albeit unprofessional, take as we both get to grips with the rules.

The GB men lose 11 goals to one as the far bulkier Lithuanians systematically outclassed them.

I bump into an old school pal whose partner is on the women's goalball team. The connections continue - the GB men's team includes brothers Adam and David Knott, and their teammate Michael Sharkey has a sister - Anna - on the women's team. I'm told my former gym teacher might be involved with the squad. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm expected to lend a hand, it's such a small community.

Bjork's quirky song It's Oh So Quiet rings out after each goal and time-out to remind the audience of their responsibility to the athletes. Videos featuring Helen Mirran, Daniel Radcliffe and other British celebrities reinforce the importance of silence by imploring us all to shush or "button it". When mobile phones go off, or babies cry, the audience tenses and officials shout before allowing the game to recommence.

GB v China women's goalball

The balls bounce or skim from end to end, depending on the tactic of the players. If they remain on the ground, they make more noise and so are easily found. If they bounce, it's harder for the players to detect the ball in the air.

There's a great moment in the Turkey v Sweden match when the ball deflects off a Turkish player and rolls silently across the central no-man's-land area and into the Swedish half. None of the players know where it is. The crowd "ooh" - might the Swedes score an own goal if they accidentally bash it? Despite the tactical scrubbing and intense listening, it can't be found and is declared a dead ball and given back to the Swedes. It reminds me of an incident the other week where I put down a pint of lager in my kitchen and then couldn't remember where I'd put it. I spent 10 frustrating minutes gently sweeping and combing all surfaces, worrying all the time that I might knock it over. It was frustrating and undignified and I'm glad no one was watching.


A general view of action during the goalball

A penalty against Turkey makes for an interesting moment as all three Swedes deliberately mix up the sound by running around so their rivals don't know if the ball is likely to come from the Centre or a Winger. Cheeky, and I'm surprised it's allowed. So-called noise penalties can be awarded against a team if they roll the ball in a slow dribble that could cause it to remain silent - blind-unfriendly goals are not cricket.

In the early evening it's the turn of Team GB's women. I study tactics, as best I can. GB talk a lot between themselves to buoy spirits: "come on girls", "all of it", "wrap it up" - technical terms, I assume. The Chinese women don't speak. Is this also a tactic? If your opponents speak, they've pulled off their metaphorical invisibility cloak and this must make it easier for their rivals. With no speaking and no eye contact, the Chinese women communicate positions and tactics by gently tapping their palms on the floor. It wasn't like this at school.

Outside the Copper Box, I speak to the Linford family, who have come along after seeing goalball on TV. With its quick-fire editing, they'd expected it to be at a faster pace. The Ibbotson family, from Tunbridge Wells, say they enjoyed the matches, but "didn't understand the penalties, high ball and things like that".

The court has raised lines and the players reorientate themselves by going to the goal on the back wall to properly line themselves up in front of their opponents.

"I thought the silence was amazing and it was fascinating the way the athletes felt their way across the court," says Sue Lee, a retired teacher from Chelmsford.


Anna Sharkey

The GB women's team are more experienced than the men and, until half time, are in with a chance of winning. Anna Sharkey receives a nose injury in the second half when the ball whacks her in the face. She's given a towel which she throws back to the team bench at the side of the court. An official moves near to where the towel lands and seconds later is hit by a water bottle Anna assumes will land safely in the same place. The official makes no sound but throws her a sour look. Just as she may never know about this look, the players never fully appreciate how their throwing tactics pay off against the other side.

The women lose seven goals to one and will play Finland on Friday. I'll be attending as it seems the Copper Box might lay on a commentator so I can use that audio description gizmo and enjoy the match a bit more.

Thursday's cycling also had no audio description - a problem repeated across the Olympic Park, and during the Olympics too. My advice to blind spectators is to ask, ask and ask again. Because for blind spectators, as well as goalball athletes, it's all about the sound. If they've purchased a ticket believing they'll get a helpful commentary, they may find it would have been easier and cheaper to listen on the radio.

Paralympics opening ceremony: Disabled audience reaction

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 10:37 UK time, Thursday, 30 August 2012

A performer suspended in midair during the opening ceremony for the Paralympics 2012

 

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?

Member of the Belgium team with assistance dog

 

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.

Performers with umbrellas are suspended in the air during the opening ceremony for the Paralympics 2012

 

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.

Members of the Brazilian team

 

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.

Stephen Hawking

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.

Mayor Boris Johnson would try wheelchair rugby

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 17:56 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Boris Johnson speaks into microphone at Aug 24 Paralympics event (AP)

Mayor Boris Johnson at Sunday's Paralympic cauldron ceremony

At a reception welcoming the Paralympic torch to the City of London this afternoon, mayor Boris Johnson said how ready he feels the capital is to host the Games.

Focusing on transport, he might just have been listening to complaints from wheelchair users; he said London's "22 thousand black taxis will have their ramps out and working." If they don't, he warned "they will be in trouble with TFL" (Transport For London).

The mayor went on to talk about the Games themselves, singling out a sport unique to the Paralympics - wheelchair rugby.

Commenting on the game's crashing and bashing at speed, Boris quirkily remarked that "If it wasn't played by Paralympians, there would be calls for it to be banned on all grounds".

I asked the mayor which Paralympic sport he would be most interested in trying. He went for the aforementioned wheelchair rugby again. However, he didn't anticipate it being an easy sport. he said: "I don't think I would have the skills. I wasn't so bad at the regular game but I think that I would have trouble playing and wheeling the wheelchair at the same time."

Tonight's opening ceremony was understandably on everyone's mind, so I wanted to know what one word people would take away with them after seeing the event in the Olympic stadium. Sadly the mayor wouldn't be drawn on what we'd see at the ceremony, but did say that "it is all great stuff" and that people would come away from it "inspired".

The ceremony will start at 8 PM on Wednesday 29 August. The BBC will broadcast it live on BBC Radio 5 live and as part of a News Hour special on The World Service. It will be televised on Channel 4 and More 4 will simulcast the show with audio description.

13 Questions: Paralympic sprinter Libby Clegg

Guest Guest | 15:53 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Sprinter Libby Clegg

Born in Stockport, 22 year old athlete Libby Clegg attended the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh before moving to Loughborough, where she currently lives and trains.

Formerly a keen dancer, Libby began running aged 10, first competing in middle distance and cross country before taking up sprinting. She now competes in the 100m and 200m races in the T12 class.

She isn't the only sporty one in the Clegg household. Her brother James, also visually impaired, represents ParalympicsGB in swimming.

Athletes with Libby's level of visual impairment race with a guide runner. Libby's current guide, Mikail Huggins, described the importance of his role on the athlete's website.
"We use a guide rope which is attached to her left hand and my right hand. Once attached we run in sequence (opposite arm/opposite leg)." He goes on to explain that if they fall out of sequence they inevitably slow down.

Libby and her guide's strides were perfectly in tune, however, when, aged just 18, she won a silver medal at the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. Months later, She came third at the BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year awards.

the aspiring sports therapist took time out from a training camp in Portugal to sprint through the answers to our 13 "medalling" questions.

My earliest memory is ...
when my brother James was born. My parents brought him back from the hospital and I kept thinking he had a flat nose!

The three words I'd use to describe myself are ...
Chocoholic, shopaholic and a book worm.

A little known fact about me is ...
I did tap, ballet and modern dance classes from the age of 2.

Given half a chance I'd relish the opportunity to bore you stupid about ...
A Game of Thrones by George. R. R. Martin. It is my favourite audio book.

I can't resist ...
buying shoes and handbags.

I want to ban ...
horns on cars so they stop beeping at me when I cross the road (without looking).

The thing I've done but would never do again is ...
have a go at driving. It was a scary experience (for the passengers).

During my time off I ...
Visit the family and friends that I've not seen in a while and chill out.

Before I die I want to ...
See the wonders of the world.

If I suddenly became able bodied I would ...
Carry on with my driving lessons.

Someone should invent ...
a teleporting machine, as I don't like travelling.

My ideal dinner guest would be ...
Father Christmas, so that he could bring me lots of presents.

My first job was ...
As a professional athlete. I've never had a "real" job!

• Follow Libby and all Paralympic action online at the BBC's Disability Sport website and on the radio with 5 live.

• Libby Clegg was speaking to Tony Garrett.

Are we ready to embrace disabled sport?

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 08:04 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Jerome Singleton and Oscar Pistorius compete at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games

The Paralympic Games are being talked up a lot this year and there seems to be a greater awareness of the event and not just for the sporting spectacle we're about to see.

Those who know a bit about it are keen to see double amputee and "blade runner" Oscar Pistorius in action. Those who know a little bit more are keen to watch the metal crunching cut and thrust of wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby where, alongside the physio, you'll also find a welder on the bench.

The Paralympics were bound to be that bit more visible in our own country but it is only now that many of us have discovered the historical significance the Games have for Britain.

Previously we may have associated Stoke Mandeville hospital with the late Jimmy Savile and his fundraising but now we're very aware that Dr Ludwig Guttmann created a national wheelchair games there in 1948 running parallel with the London Olympics of the same year.

The Games were a knock-on effect of an innovative rehabilitation regime he implemented at the hospital. The injured World War II servicemen he encountered when he first arrived were only expected to live for two years; they were kept comfortable in bed until they died.

Guttmann's sporting rehabilitation programme changed all that and led to a far higher life expectancy for people with spinal cord injuries. The first world Paralympic Games followed in 1960 in Rome with London 2012 now being the 15th Paralympic Games.

Channel 4 is the official television broadcaster of the 15th Games and have put a lot of marketing and production effort into bringing them to a wider audience than before, with over 500 hours promised to UK viewers. Could anyone have missed it?

Last night Jon Snow suggested that our GB Paralympians are becoming "household names" and certainly the broadcaster has been working hard at trying to make them so, with short films about individual athletes running in the early evening for many months now.

The trick that Channel 4 had to achieve was that, once they'd committed themselves to the coverage, they needed to make people watch it by piquing their interest.

They had to comprehensively set about teaching viewers who the little-known "super-human" stars are, and in some instances have had to explain the niche disability sports they compete in.

Important figures in Sport and politics have stepped up to tell us that the games will "dazzle" and "inspire". Seb Coe said those watching the sports would be "blown away". But there is a level of heartfelt social responsibility breaking through in words and actions.

At the lighting of the English cauldron in Trafalgar Square, London's mayor Boris Johnson said: "The Olympics showed what we can do and the Paralympics show what kind of country we are. It shows a country that's changed very much for the better. I'm not saying that it's perfect, there's still a lot to be done."

President of the Paralympic movement, Sir Philip Craven, has told us how he wants the Games to erase the word "disability" from the lexicon; he says he "detests" it. He has high hopes that London 2012 games will lead to "far more people playing sport" and "a change in attitudes".

Though breaking down these invisible barriers might be a bit hard to measure, new accessible housing, inclusive sport and better customer care, are some of the more tangible projects that the London Paralympics has been a catalyst to, so far.

But will we all want to see TV coverage of the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi? Or the next summer Games at Rio 2016? And is there a worldwide clamour to push this recently unearthed disability agenda across the globe, or are we just feeling it more because it's our games?

The significance of London 2012 Paralympics will be in the legacy and it might take a little while before we can fully appreciate the impact of that.

P minus 1 days - the Paralympics start tomorrow

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 11:32 UK time, Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Claire Lomas lights the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square

Claire Lomas lights the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square

It's the week that the London 2012 Paralympics start. Over 4,000 athletes are competing in the Games that push the limits of disabled people but the head of the Paralympics movement doesn't want to hear the D-word so I feel almost obliged not to use it over the next fortnight. Let's see how that goes.

We've been following the build up to the Games pretty avidly for the last year on our podcast and put our Paralympics special out last week, hosted by Rob Crossan.

Channel 4 have the TV rights to the Games and the BBC will be covering it on Radio 5 live. We at Ouch! will be hanging around the various venues, attending some sports, and trying to bring you the disability minutiae that builds the big picture of London's Paralympics. We are hoping to meet you, or hear your stories, if you are coming to any of the events. So follow us on Twitter and drop us a tweet.

So, where are we today, Tuesday.

Tonight, in the next stage of the complex almost medieval flame creation process, fire from the four home nations will merge at the (sacred) Stoke Mandeville hospital after having been kindled on the highest peeks in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales with sparks produced from the striking of a ferrocerium rod. Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire is where the first Parallel Olympic Games took place and it is from there that torch-bearing teams will carry it on its final journey to light the Paralympic flame in the stadium in Stratford during the opening ceremony on Wednesday night.

The torch bearers spread the news and, ceremonially, or spiritually, it feels as meaningful and British as the ancient royal beacon lighting we saw once again at the Jubilee this year.

On the way in to London this morning, I noted that Stratford station - which trumpeted that it was "the home of the Olympic park venues" loudly over its tannoys a couple of weeks ago, is making no audible mention of this second lot of Games. Maybe they will tomorrow.

Disability news roundup: Tony Nicklinson, I'm Spazticus, Paralympics

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 15:32 UK time, Friday, 24 August 2012

Newspaper front pages

It's an eclectic week for disability news. Paralympics dominate but lots of disability news stories are using the forthcoming event as a launchpad over this period. But we start with some sad news that we didn't expect to hear this time last week:

• Tony Nicklinson passed away earlier this week, just days after he lost his case in the High Court for the right to end his life.

The 58 year old husband and father, who had locked-in syndrome, died peacefully at his home due to pneumonia. He had been refusing food since receiving the verdict.

BBC News Magazine's Paper Monitor summerised newspapers' reactions to Mr. Nicklinson's unexpected death.

• Channel 4, who hold the TV rights to the Paralympic Games, aired their much awaited hidden camera show about disability this week.

I'm Spazticus, which saw disabled people play pranks on able-bodied members of the public, received mixed reviews. Scott Jordan-Harris wrote in The Telegraph that I'm Spazticus isn't offensive and it isn't ground-breaking. It's just awful. Writing for the Independent, fellow disabled blogger Sarah Ismail went one step further, calling the comedy disablist, while one of the stars of the show, Peter Mitchell defended it when he told The Radio Times that, I'm Spazticus will shock, but we're just having fun.

Paralympic News

The lead up to the London 2012 Paralympic Games has dominated the news over the past seven days. Here's just a flavor of what has been reported so far and below these are the regular headlines.

Duke of Edinburgh to miss Paralympic Games opening ceremony (BBC News, Friday 24 August)

Paralympic Games: Cauldron lit ahead of torch relay (BBC News, Friday 24 August)

Carried by soldiers, no score-keepers at 1960 Paralympics (BBC News Magazine, Friday 24 August)

Jordanian Paralympian sex charge trio to miss Games (BBC News, Thursday 23 August)

Paralympic Games: Ex-boxer Michael Watson to carry torch (BBC News Thursday 23 August)

Olympiad festival to 'open doors for disabled artists' (BBC News, Thursday 23 August)

How hard is it to travel around London in a wheelchair? (CBBC Newsround, Thursday 23 August)

Celebrate Paralympians, but remember they needed state help to get there (The Guardian, Thursday 23 August)

Paralympic athletes who harm themselves to perform better (BBC News, Wednesday 22 August)

Meet the Boccia brothers (BBC News, Tuesday 21 August)

Paralympics off with a Big Bang: Professor Stephen Hawking to be star turn of opening ceremony (The Mirror Online, Tuesday 21 August)

Behind the Paralympics, the reality for disabled people in Britain 2012 (The guardian, Monday 20 August)

Elsewhere in the news

Some mental health patients in Wales coerced (BBC News, Friday 24 August)

Audit Commission urges social care savings of £300m (BBC News, Thursday 23 August)

Older dads linked to rise in genetic disorder (BBC News, Wednesday 22 August)

Wheelchair user pushing himself across Africa (BBC News, Tuesday 21 August)

Disability activists use social media to put care cuts on the political agenda (The Guardian, Monday 20 August)

Ouch! disability talk show #89: Paralympics-a-go-go

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 08:59 UK time, Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Rob Crossan outside BBC Broadcasting House in London

How did the Games originally start? What happens when you put 200 wheelchair athletes in a tower block with only two lifts? What does wheelchair racer Hannah Cockroft have for breakfast before a competition? And how does the mum of two Paralympic swimmers feel on the eve of the big home event? This 45 minute roundtable special also has head of the IPC Sir Philip Craven, former table tennis competitor Jane Blackburn and pundit Tony Garrett. Rob Crossan presents.

Subscribe to Ouch! as a podcast in iTunes and other podcast software
Read the transcript

Links from the show

Below are useful links to people, information and organisations mentioned on the latest edition of Ouch!

BBC Sport: Who will compete for GB at the London Paralympics?
BBC Disability Sport site
paralympic.org - official Paralympic sport website from the IPC
ParalympicsGB - breaking news and more from the home team
The Guardian: Hannah Cockroft fears freeze on big stage
Mother's pride for swimming sons Sam and Oliver Hynd

Disability news roundup: From Olympic blues to Paralympic coos!

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 11:56 UK time, Friday, 17 August 2012

Newspaper front pages

Once the withdrawal feelings following Sunday's Olympic closing ceremony had abated, focus turned to part two of London 2012 - the Paralympics.

Many papers reported on how the Olympic venues are being transformed in preparation for the Games. The Guardian summarised the task at hand: "Thousands of flags and banners in dozens of venues will be changed, hundreds of buses will be converted, new volunteer recruits will be put through their paces and thousands of journalists will start trying to comprehend the intricacies of goalball and the Paralympic classification system."

Also this week, we saw two examples of popular public Paralympic pressure (PPPP?) Which brought about interesting responses.

1) The Royal Mail decided that they will produce stamps for every ParalympicGB gold medal winning athlete, as they did with Olympic gold medalists, despite previously saying that they would release just six group stamps. This had upset people who felt that disabled sports men and women weren't being taken as seriously.

2) An online petition by a wheelchair-using mother, distressed when told that she would be unable to sit with her family in the Olympic Park, gained over 30 thousand signatures and brought some clarity on how wheelchair spaces are allocated to spectators at Olympic venues.

2.1 million tickets have already been sold, making London 2012 the most popular Paralympics ever. Thousands of further tickets for the Games have just been released.

Elsewhere in the news

Watchdog finds 'weaknesses' in sickness benefit system (BBC News, Friday 17 August)

Tony Nicklinson loses High Court right-to-die case (BBC News, Thursday 16 August)

Paralympic cyclist Jody Cundy's union jack-inspired leg (BBC News, Thursday 16 August)

Michael J. Fox set for return to TV (The Telegraph, Thursday 16 August)

Eddie Marsan on playing Paralympics founder Ludwig Guttmann (BBC News, Wednesday 15 August)

One-handed pianist Nicholas McCarthy 'an inspiration' (BBC News, Wednesday 15 August)

Disabled rights pioneer Lord Morris dies aged 84 (BBC News, Tuesday 14 August)

Olympic Stadium transformed ahead of Paralympics (BBC News, Monday 13 August)

Man paralysed from the waist down becomes a top martial arts instructor - after gaining a black belt in kickboxing (The Daily Mail, Monday 13

Ludwig Guttmann, the doctor who invented the Paralympics

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 16:07 UK time, Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Left, Eddie Marsan as Dr. Ludwig Guttmann and right, Rob Brydon as paralysed soldier

The first Paralympic games took place in Rome in 1960 but the idea for a parallel games for disabled people was born 12 years earlier, right here in the UK.

The Best of Men, a feature length drama airing this Thursday on BBC Two, tells the story of how the spinal injury ward at Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire, was transformed from a place where paralysed servicemen went to die, into the venue for the first parallel Olympic Games.

The 1948 Games featured wheelchair using athletes competing at sports including archery and table tennis.

Based on a true story, the film begins during World War II with the arrival to the ward of its new head: a German refugee called Dr. Ludwig Guttmann.

Played by Eddie Marsan, Guttmann is dismayed to find a ward full of paralysed soldiers who are all heavily sedated, confined to bed, and being made comfortable until their inevitable deaths.

The life expectancy for someone with a spinal injury in the UK was less than two years back then but Guttmann turned this around and got them all up and moving.

The Best of Men was written by Lucy Gannon who, amongst other things, wrote ITV drama Soldier Soldier. She says that her research led her to believe that the care of spinal patients at Stoke Mandeville pre-Guttmann was well-intentioned.

"At that time, most [spinally injured patients] died within a year, from infections contracted through bed sores and urine, or through simply remaining completely immobile".

As this was their expected fate, the approach, Lucy says, was to give them "peace and quiet and love, and to be kind to them until the end".

But Guttmann's pre-war work as a neurologist at a top German hospital had taught him new ways to treat spinal patients.

The drama shows Guttmann who, despite initial resistance from other staff, removes the men's casts, treats their bed sores and infections and begins the rehabilitation process.

The main thrust is not the medical process, about how mobile each man became, or even about the sport they would eventually be prescribed to build their strength - it is all about the relationships.

Comedy, sadness and hope are conveyed via interactions between the soldiers, played by Rob Brydon, disabled actors David Proud and Ben Owen-Jones, and George McKay. It also portrays the strong bond between Guttmann and his patients.

In the drama, dr. Guttmann, or "Poppa" as he became known, continuously challenges preconceptions of what they can achieve and helps them to realise that suddenly, they have a future.

Lucy believes that It was Guttmann's war-time experiences as a Jew in Germany which really bonded him to the men in his care.

"When he came out of Germany, he'd lost his career, his home and most of his family. Guttmann had his feet kicked out from under him - as they [his patients] had. He had established the need to press on regardless and he made these other people press on too."

Ludwig Guttmann is characterised as having a headstrong and charismatic personality. At a recent screening of the drama, a former patient of his told Lucy the story of a newcomer to the ward who was said to have broken his back only the day before Ludwig Guttmann approached him for the first time. He asked the man if he swam and, when he said yes, the doctor instructed: "I'll see you at the pool at 2 O'clock this afternoon".

Best of Men concludes as the main characters take part in the very first Parallel Olympic Games. Within four years, the Games had become international and now, in 2012, athletes from 165 countries will soon travel to London to take part in the modern Paralympics that he created.

Working on this project has brought writer Lucy Gannon to the conclusion that the work of Ludwig Guttmann will not be complete until the Paralympics and Olympics should eventually become one.

"I hope that The Best of Men makes people realise that what was not possible 40 years ago, is possible now, and that what is not possible now, might be in the future. It would be wonderful if in 20 years time, the Paralympics were included with the main Olympics. Guttmann's legacy will only be fully fulfilled when there is no such thing as the Paralympics. ... the sooner we do it, the better."

• The Best of Men will be shown on BBC Two, at 9 PM on 16 August. Catch it afterwards on iPlayer.

• Disabled actor David Proud, who plays injured soldier Jeremy in The Best of Men, wrote about the experience on the BBC TV blog

Srin Madipalli: A wheelchair user's Olympic Park experience

Guest Guest | 16:18 UK time, Friday, 10 August 2012

Srin Madipalli (photo by Natacha Heffinck)

Earlier this year, Emma wrote about Locog's plans to make every spectator's Olympic and Paralympic experience an accessible one.

Now that the Olympics are drawing to a close and the Paralympics are almost upon us, wheelchair user Srin Madipalli writes about his experiences as a disabled spectator at London 2012.

When London was awarded the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics back in 2005, the organisers promised that the event would be open to all. I am a wheelchair user and a huge sports fan, so last weekend I was delighted to be able to find out if this pledge had been honoured, when I had the privilege of watching rowing at Eton Dorney and athletics at the Olympic Stadium.

First up for my Olympics weekend was the Saturday morning rowing session at Eton Dorney. I visited the London 2012 website beforehand, which helpfully outlined the best route in terms of accessibility.

On their advice, I travelled on a National Rail service operated by South West trains from Waterloo Station to Eton and Riverside Station and did the reverse journey to get back home. I rarely use National Rail services but booking assisted travel proved straight forward and somebody was there with ramps to assist me at each end.

While travelling to both the rowing and athletics, I noticed plenty of really helpful posters in and around stations, informing people of accessible routes to the various venues.

At Eton and Riverside Station, I boarded an accessible shuttle, which dropped me off at the venue entrance. As our places were still a significant distance away, an additional shuttle (again fully accessible) took me to where I was seated.

Safe in the knowledge that access had been thought of at every turn for smaller venues, I was hopeful that the following day's journey to watch the athletics at the main Olympic Park would run smoothly too.

I grew up in East London and am a regular user of the Jubilee Line, so I was more than happy to take the tube to Stratford where the stadium is situated. My only apprehension was whether I would have any problems navigating through the anticipated large crowds. However, once I got there, all worries about this disappeared, as a well organised crowd control operation ensured that I could easily move through the station and get to an accessible shuttle bus which would whizz me past the crowds of walkers to the Olympic Park entrance.

There were mobility scooters available to hire for free too, and I thought they actually looked good and stylish, not like the medical-looking scooters you see in shopping centres.

Once inside, the wheelchair accessible bays in both venues were packed and they didn't feel cut-off or remote as they often do. A single "companion" was allowed to accompany me for free and while the views were great, I only had one gripe. I went to the events with a group of friends/family, so it would have been nice for all of us to sit together.

However, this is a problem I face at pretty much every event I go to, where it seems to be assumed that you will attend with a "carer" and not mind being seated far away from the rest of your group.

Other than that, I found it easy to move around the venues, get to the food stalls and use the accessible bathrooms.

I believe the volunteers, known as the "Games Makers", have been one of the key reasons for London 2012's success.

From an accessibility perspective, volunteers were relied upon to man the accessible shuttles, for marshalling/guiding disabled spectators through the designated accessible routes and helping with any general queries or problems.
But more importantly, the enthusiasm and passion of all the volunteers was infectious. Their friendliness, kindness and helpfulness made everything so much easier and just added to the great atmosphere.

The rowing and the athletics were just awesome spectacles to watch. One highlight was seeing Oscar Pistorius compete in the 400 metres semi-final. It was an honour for me and my fellow 80,000 spectators to see this extraordinary guy fulfil his dream by taking part in the Olympic Games on his famous carbon fibre blades.

My very positive accessibility experience was from the perspective of a wheelchair user and born and bred Londoner, and I hope that the huge pride I feel at how we have hosted the games has not clouded my judgement.

Did you use audio description or a hearing loop? Were you travelling with a disabled child? Please share your 2012 access experiences in the comments below.

Disability news round-up: Paralympics, conjoined twins, Babybel

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 11:40 UK time, Friday, 10 August 2012

Newspaper front pages

As the London 2012 Olympics comes to a close, attention is beginning to turn towards the Paralympic Games, which are now just 19 days away.

While news that Royal Mail will not be honouring each Paralympic gold medallist with a celebratory stamp was causing an outcry online this week, BBC London reported a spike in Paralympic ticket sales. Experts attribute this development to the excitement generated by Team GB's historic Olympic medal haul. Sports fans who were unable to gain access to the park to witness Team GB's many successes, now recognise the Paralympics as a way to get a piece of the action.

One of only two athletes taking part in both games is South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. The "Bladerunner" made history in London last weekend, becoming the first amputee to run in an Olympic competition. Greeted by a roar usually reserved for a home athlete, Oscar surpassed expectations by making it through his men's 400 heats to compete in the semi-final.

Oscar Pistorius, who says that he is "living a dream" by competing at London 2012, will also run for South Africa on Friday in the final of the men's 4 x 400 metres relay.

Elsewhere in the News

Help for Heroes defends recovery centres (BBC News, Friday 10 August)

Aurora cinema massacre: James Holmes 'mentally ill' (BBC News, Friday 10 August

Help for Heroes and MoD criticised by injured troops (BBC News, Thursday 9 August)

Lee Ridley: Stand-up success for 'Lost Voice Guy' comic (BBC News, Thursday 9 August)

South Sudan: Basketball inspires wounded (BBC News, Thursday 9 August)

Bob Hoskins to retire after Parkinson's diagnosis (BBC News, Thursday 9 August)

Paralympic cyclist Simon Richardson: Driver trial jury out (BBC News, Thursday 9 August)

Abby and Brittany Hensel, conjoined 22-year-old twins, get their own reality TV series (The New York Daily News, Thursday 9 August)

Campaigners call for Babybel boycott after mental illness 'insult' (The Independent, Thursday 9 August)

Website warned over MMR claims (BBC News, Wednesday 8 August)

Royal Mail defends decision to deny Paralympic gold medallists own stamps (The Guardian, Wednesday 8 August)

Winterbourne View abuse report calls for changes to care (BBC News, Tuesday 7 August)

First music festival fully accessible to disabled people hits the right note (The Guardian, Tuesday 7 August)

Large care facilities 'prone to abuse' (BBC News, Tuesday 7 August)

Winterbourne View worker admits abusing patients (BBC News, Monday 6 August)

Paralympics founder Sir Ludwig Guttmann's legacy celebrated in BBC drama (The Telegraph, Friday 3 August)

Disability comedy at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 13:12 UK time, Thursday, 9 August 2012

Comedian Imaan Hadchiti

Comedian Imaan Hadchiti

A plethora of disabled comedians have travelled north this August to take part in the world's biggest arts event, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Here's a run-down of some of the disability related comedy, currently taking place in the Scottish capital.

• A little perspective with Imaan
Lebanese Australian comedian Imaan Hadchiti was a guest on the August Ouch! Talk Show. In his Edinburgh show, the 3.5ft tall stand-up comic uses hidden camera work to explore public attitudes to his short stature.

Most of the film was shot during nights out in Melbourne, by a camera hidden in Imaan's hat. In one clip, a young woman asks if he is "human", while another describes the 22-year-old as "cute" and "special".

Imaan, whose condition Rima Syndrome was named after his similarly sized sister, maintains that as long as there are "stupid people in the world" he will have plenty of material for his shows.

• Adam Hills: Mess Around
Sticking with disabled Aussie funny men, Festival regular Adam Hills is back in Edinburgh for a second run with Mess Around, an hour of audience lead ad-libbing. Adam often includes material in his shows about life with a prosthetic foot and was a regular writer on Ouch! once upon a time.

Adam's next gig will be as presenter of the evening Paralympic highlights show on Channel 4, when the Games begin later this month.

• Laurence Clark: Inspired
Laurence was the only comedian commissioned as part of the London2012 Cultural Olympiad, for a show pitched in the knowledge that its subject matter was "the opposite of what they wanted".

At a time when Paralympians are being described as heroes and inspirational, Laurence uses personal experiences and hidden camera work to turn the concept of being inspiring on its head.

During Laurence Clark: Inspired Laurence takes the audience on a journey, as he explores why being labelled inspiring sits so badly with him as a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy. On one hand, he suggests that disabled people should not necessarily be considered inspirational for "doing the things everyone else does", like having kids or getting a job. But by the same token, he challenges his own beliefs, relating to a recent incident, where his ability to inspire someone became a purely positive thing.

• Lost Voice Guy and Jeff Lantern: Not afraid of tablets
Lost Voice Guy, AKA Lee Ridley can't speak, so he uses an iPad tablet computer with voice synthesiser to vocalise his material. This means that his jokes are told in a voice remarkably similar to the one you'll hear reading out platform announcements at London's Kings Cross station and it works. Lee is making a significant impact on the stand-up comedy scene. He has just nabbed a support slot with Ross Noble.

Lost Voice Guy will be joined for his two Edinburgh shows by Jeff Lantern, who takes medication due to mental health problems. Hence the show's clever title - Not afraid of tablets.

• Chris McCausland: Not blind enough
The stand-up comedian who has historically taken great care not to make blindness the focus of his humour, has written a show about not being able to see.

During the hour long performance, Chris also takes the opportunity to express his somewhat controversial views on the Paralympic Games.

No individual stamp honour for Paralympic gold medallists

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 11:19 UK time, Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Olympic Stamps

Each Team GB Olympic gold medallist will be featured on their own Royal Mail stamp this summer. However, stamps due to be released in celebration of Great Britain's Paralympic success will not honour athletes individually.

Instead, six first-class stamps featuring group pictures of the medallists will be produced after the Games finish on 9 September.

Blogger Inadifferentvoice is unhappy with Royal Mail's decision and has written to them saying:

"Why is Royal Mail only planning to credit the Paralympian gold winners with a group shot, when currently you are issuing individual stamps for Olympic gold medallists? They may be first class stamps, but this feels like second class treatment."

In answer to questions they received on why athletes wouldn't be honoured individually, the British Paralympic Association have released a statement on their website. They say that having worked closely with Royal Mail, they are "pleased" with plans for stamps celebrating the London 2012 Paralympic Games, adding that the decision not to produce a stamp for each gold medal winning athlete is a logistical one.

"In Beijing, ParalympicsGB won 42 gold medals over 10 days of competition, including nine in one day, and we are expecting a similarly world-class level of performance from our athletes this time around. As a result, it is logistically and practically impossible for Royal Mail to produce an individual stamp for every one of the gold medallists for ParalympicsGB."

Disabled journalist, TV producer and sports fan, Paul Carter, is sceptical and struggles to understand the "difference between printing 41 and 25 stamps. Isn't it just a case of pressing Control P on a keyboard?"

He also questions why the British Paralympic Association didn't challenge Royal Mail on their decision to differentiate between Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

"I think they have acquiesced to them a little bit. Sometimes I wish the BPA would stand up and show a bit more teeth. Tell Royal Mail that if they weren't going to produce individual stamps for Paralympic gold medallists, then they shouldn't have done it for the Olympians."

The BPA points out that recognition of Paralympians by Royal Mail through stamps, "is a first in the history of the Paralympics."

Like their Olympic counterparts, each Paralympic gold medallist will also be honoured by Royal Mail with a gold painted post box in their home town.

Ouch! disability talk show #88: Paralympic dreams and 'stupid people'

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 14:41 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2012



Rob Crossan outside BBC Broadcasting House in London








'Short' comedian Imaan Hadchiti doesn't suffer fools, the Paralympic cyclist Rachel Morris injured in a car crash while training plus the assistance animals that type PIN numbers ... and other stories. Rob Crossan and Julie Fernandez present.

Download Ouch! as a podcast
Click to read a transcript

Links from the show

Caroline Jephcott: Nine top tips from a physically disabled parent
disaABLED positive parent: the blog of our guest Caroline - assistance dog owner and mother
Dogs for the disabled
PAWS - helpful role model dogs for children with autism run by our guest Katie

Paralympic cyclist Rachel Morris in fitness fight after car accident

Aussie comedian Imaan Hadchiti on Facebook

Music: Jez Colborne at the London 2012 Festival

• Our next show is a Paralympics special, presented by Rob Crossan, and will be available shortly before the opening of the Games. Liz carr will return in the first show of our autumn run.

Baroness Jane Campbell to be a castaway on Desert Island Discs

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 14:31 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2012

Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton

Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton


Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton, seasoned disability campaigner and crossbench peer in the House of Lords, is the guest on this Sunday's Desert Island Discs.

The show, where Kirsty Young interviews a "castaway" one-to-one and asks them to make 8 personal record choices, has been part of the BBC radio landscape since 1942 and is a prestigious invite indeed.

Jane was asked to appear on the show late last year but unfortunately was ill in hospital at the time. However, when she recovered and made contact with the programme again this summer, they were still keen to have her, something which came as a surprise to the self-depricating Baroness.

"I'm a Bit of a fan of Desert Island Discs. The people sound so interesting and have done great things like compose music. I wondered why they wanted me. All I've done is disability rights, like lots of other people.

"But I'm shocked that I ever passed an O level. I'm convinced that sooner or later people will realise that I'm a fluke!"

Although she describes herself as "an open book", Jane says she was daunted by the experience to begin with and that she found selecting her favourite disks pretty difficult.

"I love music and didn't know whether to choose songs that reminded me of situations and people or pieces I really loved. In the End, I tended to choose tracks which remind me of the big moments in my life. Surprisingly they [Desert Island Disks] don't steer you at all, which is quite brave."

The baroness was impressed by the team's willingness to make the necessary reasonable adjustments for her disability; the programme was recorded in her home rather than in the studio.

"It was so good of them to make the effort to come out here because recording in someone's house is unpredictable. I'd just been ill for about five months and I didn't think that I could make it up to a studio and be comfortable there to do a long interview. I have breathing issues and the equipment I need is at home ."

When asked why she thought the programme had invited her on now, the 52-year-old, who was born with the difficult condition spinal muscular atrophy, said: "I hope it isn't because they think I'm going to drop dead. I am past my sell-by date and I sometimes feel like I'm living a Bit on borrowed time but I am still alive and I have done some pretty remarkable things and been part of some pretty remarkable projects and campaigns."

Jane plans to listen to the show, "under the quilt with a pillow over my ears".

Other disabled castaways have included fellow Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Blind Labour MP David Blunkett and disabled punk star Ian Dury.

Desert Island Disks with Baroness Campbell of Surbiton will be on BBC Radio 4 this Sunday at 11.15 noon, repeated next Friday at 9.00 AM.

1500 episodes of Desert Island Discs can be listened to and downloaded from the programme's website.

Disability news roundup: Work capability assessment investigated

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 14:20 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2012

Newspaper front pages

Earlier this week, BBC and Channel 4 both broadcast investigative reports into the work capability assessment. Run by Atos for the Department for Work and Pensions, this controversial test is designed to determine whether sick and disabled people are fit for work.

Channel 4's Dispatches programme investigated how doctors and health professionals are trained to do the test, and the Panorama film spoke to sick and disabled people who have been called in for an assessment.

One of the issues raised was how many sick and disabled people are declared fit for work and subsequently have this decision overturned on appeal. The Guardian put this figure at 30 percent in an article reporting that Chris Grayling had been "accused of trying to censor a Ministry of Justice courts service information video that helps people appealing against decisions to remove their disability and sickness benefit".

The TV investigations left papers looking for answers. In a blog post for The Independent, Christina Patterson asked if Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd is proud of what the Government has been doing on disability? And in an open letter for the Daily Mail, Sonia Poulton wondered of the Labour party leader, "Will Ed Miliband stand up for the disabled against distressing and unreliable work capability tests?"

Writing in The Guardian, Minister Chris Grayling said: "Of course not everyone is able to work - in many cases people are simply too unwell and that's why they are rightly entitled to unconditional employment and support allowance. And far from the draconian picture some seek to paint, we've actually made changes which mean more people now end up in this support group."

It was announced on Thursday that, in addition to carrying out the work capability assessments, Atos have been awarded a 400 million pound contract to undertake eligibility tests for the disability living allowance replacement, to be known as Personal Independence Payments.

Elsewhere in the news

Half a million disabled people may lose benefits under reforms (The Independent, Friday 3 August)

Chronic fatigue syndrome: Brain training is most cost-effective treatment (BBC News, thursday 2 August)

Opinion: Don't misuse your disability benefits - the DWP might (The Independent, Thursday 2 August)

Mild mental illness 'raises risk of premature death' (BBC News, Wednesday 1 August)

Opinion: Bad attitudes do not cause disability any more than good attitudes guarantee health (The Independent, Wednesday 1 August)

Forced marriage advice to help victims with learning disabilities (BBC News, Wednesday 1 August)

Disabled anti-cuts campaigners take the fight to the Paralympic Games (The Guardian, Tuesday 31 July)

Disability and stereotypes: The non-apology apology (Blogs - The Independent, Tuesday 31 July)

Diabetic foot care 'appalling' (BBC News, Tuesday 31 July)

Benefit cheats 'colour attitudes to disabled people' (BBC News, Tuesday 31 July)

Opinion: Benefits and targets: Sickness and disability are not the same (Blogs - Independent, Tuesday 31 July)

Disabled dancer returns to the stage in provocative new play (The Independent, Monday 30 July)

Disability tests 'sending sick and disabled back to work' (The Telegraph, Monday 30 July)

The disabled Olympians ... not Paralympians

Emma Tracey Emma Tracey | 12:09 UK time, Thursday, 2 August 2012

Oscar Pistorius

Four weeks before the Paralympic Games begin, you might be surprised to hear that disabled athletes are already making their mark ... in the Olympics.

The first breaking of a world record in the London 2012 Games was by a visually impaired archer on the opening day.

South Korea's Im Dong Hyun, who has 10 Percent vision in his left eye and 20 percent in his right, first broke the individual world record, then, as part of the team, helped to break another (team) world record in the first ranking rounds of both events at Lord's cricket ground. The team went on to win bronze on Saturday though had reached gold in both Athens and Beijing.

Despite experiencing shoulder problems and having surgery in the lead up to the Games, he is hoping to win his first individual gold in London.

CBS News reports that when Im Dong Hyun looks at the target from his position 70 metres away, "he sees colors with blurred lines between them".

Though Im is an athlete with a significant impairment, he is competing only in the 'mainstream' Olympics and not the Paralympics. But there are two athletes who are scheduled to compete at both games.

The most famous of these of course is 'Bladerunner' Oscar Pistorius, who is expected to attract a similar level of interest to athletes like Usain Bolt when he runs in the men's 400 heats on Saturday. He is also part of the South African relay team and will be the first amputee to compete on an Olympic track.

The second dual Olympic and Paralympic athlete is Poland's Natalia Partyka. She was born without a right hand or forearm and has been playing table tennis since the age of seven. At the 2000 Games in Sydney, she was the youngest of the Paralympians, competing at just 11 years old.

She made her Olympic debut in Beijing in 2008. Ranked as number 68 in the world, she was never a medal hopeful for London 2012 in the individual event but that didn't stop the crowd from getting behind her when she played at the Olympic Park on Sunday.

According to Yahoo Sport's Jeff Eisenberg, Natalia's game is almost identical to that of a non-disabled player. He says: "The only impact Partyka's disability has on her table tennis game is her serve. Whereas other players begin their serve by tossing the ball with their off hand, she has learned to do the same by cradling the ball in the crook of her right elbow."

Partyka told the BBC that disability is "nothing" to her and that being asked about it all the time becomes a bit boring. "I am playing the same lines as the others. I am doing the same exercises.

"We have the same goals and the same dreams and I can play like them. I can serve and don't have any problems."

Her Olympic team event is on Friday. When this is behind her, she'll begin preparations for the Paralympic Games which start on August 29.

Should athletes be able to compete in both Olympic and Paralympic Games? Does it throw into question (again) exactly what a disability is? Does it confuse the idea of what the Paralympics are for? Or is this equality in action? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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