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#46 Paralympics 2012: Be. Curious

Musings on the 2012 Paralympics and What’s Next

The New Zealand team at the opening ceremonyWhether it was a shift in attitudes in the last four years, London being spectacular hosts, or the fact that it was New Zealand’s best performance yet, the 2012 Paralympics have given us so much to think and talk about over the past few weeks.

The opening ceremony kicked things off with beautiful performances by mixed-ability performers and poignant, thoughtful moments of wonder. Stephen Hawking encouraged us to ‘look up at the stars not down at your feet’ and to ‘Be curious.’ The theme of the ceremony was ‘Enlightenment’, celebrating not only the age of science and art that we live in, but also the changes in perception towards disability.

And as the Tempest’s Miranda broke through a fictional glass ceiling during the opening ceremony, the New Zealand team were preparing to crack their own dreams. Sometimes us Kiwis aren’t that great at blowing our own trumpet, but here’s a neat fact to share with your workmates over coffee tomorrow morning: New Zealand was FIRST in the world, in medals per capita for the Parlaympics 2012. With 3.89 medals per million of population, New Zealand came out on top, streets ahead of total medal tally winner, China, who won 231 medals but only 0.17 per million of population.

Here is a list of our 24 extraordinary Paralympians who competed in this year’s games:

Fiona Southorn – Bronze
Sophie Pascoe – Gold x 3, Silver x 3
Phillipa Gray (with Pilot Laura Thompson) – Gold, Silver , Bronze
Rebecca Dubber
Nathan Smith
Anthea Gunner
Danny McBride
Nikita Howarth
Mary Fisher –Gold, Silver x 2, Bronze
Aine Kelly-Costello
Daniel Holt
Chris Ross
Peter Martin
Rachel Stock
Michael Johnson - Bronze
Cameron Leslie - Gold
Daniel Sharp - Silver
Jan Apel
Tim Dempsey
Paul Francis
Holly Robinson
Tim Prendergast
Sue Reid

Two weeks later, the closing ceremony brought even more spectacle and wonder, and many argue it outshone the Olympic Closing Ceremony.  Superstars Coldplay serenaded the athletes whom Lord Coe, 2012 Chairman, described as having “lifted the cloud of limitation.”

Considered the ‘greatest ever’ Paralympic games, the closing ceremony left us all dying for it not to end. In Sir Philip Craven’s words “These Games have changed us all forever.”

And changed the world indeed they have. It’s extremely encouraging to see grunty and influential media like The Economist and The Independent using the Paralympic games as a catalyst for publishing articles that truly challenge our perception of disability and accessibility.

The question now asked by many is how do we capture the imagination and attention of the public who were drawn into these spectacular games and capitalise on that interest? How do we ensure that accessibility remains at the forefront of our minds, rather than letting it slip to the back again until Rio 2016?

It is really up to each and every one of us to continue thinking about accessibility in our everyday lives; to use the memories of the Paralympics as a reminder that each person has something valuable to contribute to our communities and our world.

How does accessibility apply to your life at work, at school, in your community? What is your perception of disability? Has it shifted? Get thinking, and share your thoughts and ideas with friends and family.

Question your thinking, and change the world.