A disability double standard of Paralympic proportions
We’re all loving the Paralympics this week, and trotting out the platitudes and clichés like they’re going out of style. Yes, that was a deliberate use of cliché.
Truth is, sometimes there is a place for platitudes. When you watch a bloke like Matt Cowdrey, who overnight swam the 50m freestyle with one arm in a time less than five seconds slower than the able-bodied world record, there’s not much else to say except what a wonderful, brave competitor the bloke is.
The ABC is to be congratulated for showing over 100 hours of Paralympic action, which is a damn sight better than America’s rights-holder NBC, which is showing just four one-hour delayed highlights packages across the full 11 days of Paralympic competition. Way to pay tribute to the 20 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on the team. But we shouldn’t feel too self-satisfied about the Australian public’s enthusiasm for this event.
This week, we have seen yet more circular debate over the NDIS, led by the Qld premier Campbell Newman who has a firm mandate to cut down on profligacy, but who has been nothing short of recalcitrant on the NDIS issue.
As the editor-in-chief of this website, David Penberthy, put it today in a news.com.au story which features a heart-rending array of letters he received directly from people caring for the disabled:
“The [NDIS] plan has been hijacked by political squabbling and funding disputes and is only 5 per cent operational, meaning thousands of families are being forced to wait as it proceeds on a piecemeal fashion for just a handful of participants around the nation. “
While this battle rages, a huge swag of us settle back in our armchairs each evening and celebrate those brave athletes like Australian equestrian Hanna Dodd, who has a rare type of spina bifida and has to pop her own dislocated joints back in while in training due to a lack of support staff.
She also can’t take the industrial-grade painkillers most of us would need to get through that, lest she violate the Paralympic doping rules.
So many of us admire Hannah Dodd’s guts, then pretty much forget her and her fellow Paralympians for another four years as readily as we disregard the hundreds of thousands of disabled Australians just like her who aren’t athletically inclined, or who are unable to be.
Our Paralympians receive about $11million a year in Australian Sports Commission funding. You don’t see anyone arguing over that.
So why are so many questioning a funding regime which would allow disabled people from all walks and wheels of life the right to conduct their day-today lives with dignity?
Without being too preachy, we’d do well to learn to value our disabled people whether they’re swimming, riding a finely manicured mare or merely just trying to get to the toilet without assistance.
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