The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and United Nations Human Rights Office have launched the first of three short films focusing on the employment legacies left by the London 2012 Paralympic Games as part of its "Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone" campaign.
The 2012 London Paralympic Games have changed the media's awareness of the way they have reported about it. Six years later, experts with disabilities are active in front of and behind the camera.
The film, published to coincide with UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, showcases the role broadcaster Channel 4 has played in not only transforming attitudes towards disability in Great Britain but in changing the country’s media landscape and encouraging other organisations to employ persons with a disability.
According to recent figures from the Office of National Statistics, 3.85 million persons with disabilities are now in employment in Great Britain, nearly one million more than five years ago.
Ahead of London 2012, Channel 4 spent GBP 600,000 on a nationwide search for presenters with a disability who they trained to front coverage of the Paralympic Games. During the Games Channel 4 showcased more than 500 hours of Paralympic coverage across all platforms, coverage that ultimately helped to one in three people in Great Britain changing their attitudes towards disability.
"The most important thing is the impact we have had on the British people, the way it has encouraged them to break down barriers and employ more disabled people," explained Dan Brooke, Channel 4’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, who stars in the first film. "We need to get employers to start realising this not charity work, this is make your business more successful work."
Beijing 2008 Paralympic swimmer Kate Grey also features in the first film. She believes that in 2012 Channel 4 created a new blueprint for how to cover Paralympic sport. "When Channel 4 came in, they just ripped up the rule book. They started over and covered it like never before," said Grey who now works for the BBC as a sports journalist. "They really changed the way people covered and spoke about disability. They just made disability feel part of a community rather than isolated from a community."
At London 2012, Channel 4 was one of the few broadcasters to feature people with an impairment on-screen during the Games. By Rio 2016, two thirds of all Channel 4’s presenters had a disability and many other broadcasters followed their lead. "In London, ours was one of the only studios where there were lots of disabled people. In Rio, every single country had disabled people in their studio in front of the camera and behind the camera," said Brooke.
One of the many people to be inspired by Channel 4’s coverage of London 2012 was JJ Chalmers who, a year earlier, had suffered devastating injuries while serving as a Royal Marine in Afghanistan. Seeing presenters with an impairment on TV acted as a huge motivator for the 31-year-old. "London 2012 was a huge step forward in terms of people’s awareness of disability, the way that it was portrayed in the media," said Chalmers. "Watching the Games themselves, particularly seeing the disabled talent on screen, I suddenly realised that’s something I’d love to do. I think it’s hugely important that, ultimately, we see an impairment on television. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a wheelchair, it doesn’t matter whether you have hands like me. We are all human beings and we need to start looking at our TVs and going 'Alright, there is human being on the television'."
Thanks to Channel 4’s lead, presenters with an impairment are frequently seen across many channels on British television. The likes of Ade Adepitan, Alex Brooker, Nikki Fox, Adam Hills and Sophie Morgan, as well as Chalmers and Grey, are all now familiar faces on-screen.
According to Channel 4’s Brooke, employers who immerse themselves in inclusive employment soon reap the benefits. Brooke said: "No-one ever says to me in a work situation: 'I found out a bit more about disabled people but, you know, it didn’t really interest me, and I don’t think I’ll bother with that." People do the opposite. "They say: 'That’s fascinating, thank you, I want to go and do something about that.' Then, they do something it and then they say: 'I want to know more!' And this is how the world changes."
The IPC and United Nations Human Rights Office’s "Transforming Lives Makes Sense for Everyone" campaign showcases the long-term legacies the Paralympic Games have for persons with disabilities through education, employment, inclusive cities, Para sport and political leadership.
Throughout December, a series of short films, stories and graphics will be published which demonstrate how the London 2012 Paralympics contributed to greater employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in Great Britain.
The second film has been published on 10 December and featured eight-time Paralympic champion Sophie Christiansen, one of the world’s best Para equestrian riders, who is an analyst for Goldman Sachs in London. She is joined by TV producer and broadcaster Andy Stevenson who was recently named on the Shaw Trust Disability 100 List, an annual publication of the most influential people with an impairment in the United Kingdom.
The London 2012 Paralympic Games took place between 29 August and 9 September attracting 4,237 Para athletes from 164 countries. A record 2.7 million tickets were sold while a cumulative TV audience of 3.8 billion people watched in over 100 countries.
REHACARE.com; Source: International Paralympic Committee (IPC)