When neurosurgeon Lutwig Guttmann launched the first Paralympics in 1948 he could hardly have imagined the event 64 years on. From the humble beginnings of a makeshift athletics field at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to a global reach of hundreds of millions of people, the Superhumans (as UK TV broadcaster Channel 4 has dubbed the competitors) will display their immense talent in front of sell-out crowds at every venue. A combination of huge sponsorship money, South African athlete Oscar Pistorius whose ‘blade runner’ prosthetics and talent have won over millions of fans from the able-bodied Olympics and the excitement of a summer the British people never want to end are making these Games an irresistible prospect. In London 2012, disability is at last cool. Even The Sun, never known for taking on social issues ran a front-page splash today on squaddie Derek Derenalagi who had been given up as dead while on duty in Afghanistan and who will be ‘going for gold’ at these Games.
At Careimages, we are proud of our involvement, albeit small, in highlighting disability (learning, physical and sensory) issues through our photographs and blogs. And to celebrate the Paralympics we have commissioned photo-journalist Julio Etchart (julioetchart.com) to provide images from the Games. His shots will not only reflect the athleticism of the Superhumans but also of able-bodied and disabled people watching them, as well as interesting background reportage that Julio specialises in.
We respect and admire the Superhumans but there is still much work to be done for the also-rans in the world of disability in relation to access, inclusivity and prejudice. I understand that Channel 4 need to raise the ante and a strapline with Superhumans will put bums in front of TV screens, but my wager is that disabled people round the world would rather be seen first as humans, equal to those with two legs and so-called intellectual ability and as a first resort being able to watch a film in a cinema and fly on a plane with them.
Guttmann’s legacy lives on and we are delighted to represent his vision through Julio’s lens. Watch out for the images, they reflect a very different world from 1948. Maybe, just maybe, after these Games, people will start using the word ability to describe disability.