Are you currently watching the Olympics? Do you plan to watch the Paralympics? Did you know the Paralympics existed? It wasn’t until the London Olympics in 2012, that I found out that the Paralympics was a thing. After that I had questions, starting with when was it and why didn’t it receive the same media coverage? For years, people with disabilities have talked about how inclusion and representation matter in sports and all industries so that we can live happy full lives like everyone else. Sports and people with disabilities need to be seen, but how is that possible when representation isn’t shown in media and what can we do about it?
The History of It All
The first Olympic Games took place at the end of the 19th century in 1896 and the first Winter Olympics followed 28 years later in 1924 according to History.com. However, according to the International Paralympic Committee, the Paralympic games, originally titled the Stoke Mandeville Games, has a much shorter history, only starting 60 years ago in 1960. The committee also states that it wasn’t until 1976 that the first Winter Paralympics were held in Sweden. During my research, I was most surprised by the fact that it wasn’t until 1988 that the Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in the same cities.
Being a part of the disability community, part of me is surprised by this information yet, another part of me isn’t. In school there are centuries of history to cover, the rise and fall of empires, still, the history of the largest minority is not taught much if not at all. We’ve come a long way from the time that the ADA was first passed in 1990 and society is slowly making changes, but we still have so so far to go. Teaching the history of the disabled community would give those of us a part of the community to learn about the amazing people that came before us and I would hope it would be a factor in dispelling preconceived notions about what life is “supposed” to be like for people with disabilities.
How Can You Be It, If You Can’t See It?
The pandemic has caused so many heartbreaking moments, but during that time, I was able to attend a virtual event where I got to connect with hundreds of women with disabilities and hear from disability activist Judy Huemmann, Actress, Ali Stroker, Paralympian Gold Medalist Mallory Weggemman, and other influential people within the disability community. I also attended a panel where several people spoke about what life was like before the ADA and the situations they faced just going about their daily lives which included fighting for access in buildings to attend college classes and employment struggles.
Listening to these struggles was difficult, but at the same time, it motivated me. I think about those moments on the hard days dealing with my disability, it helps remind me that I can either stay in the moment annoyed or angry at the situation or I can find a way to deal with it and do my best to find a way go about doing whatever it is I need io, I choose the latter.
Growing up, it would have been amazing to see Paralympians competing or actresses and models with disabilities in the media, simply because I would have been able to say “oh she did that so I can” I am so happy that those aspects exist for girls growing up now. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter, if they are not featured in the media for one simple reason:
How can you be it, if you can’t see it?
Don’t get me wrong I understand someone has to blaze the trail, to be first, but on days when you need to be motivated, inspired, and reminded why you want to keep pushing forward it would be nice to be able to look up and say I want to be like that girl/ guy. Since the Olympics have started, I’ve seen commercial after commercial depicting kids watching these Olympians on television, the idea that they are inspired to do that too. I’ve also commercials featuring Paralympians, but I wonder if their events in the Paralympics will be covered
Equal Pay Equal Media Coverage
The Paralympics will be held at the end of August so I guess I’ll have to wait to see what kind of media coverage they get this year, but at least they’ll finally be getting equal pay for their medals. When I first saw the article a few days, I was surprised, not only because I didn’t know that it wasn’t already happening, but with the pay disparity between Olympians and Paralympians. According to an article published in the Huffington Post written by Haley Millier. ” The change was implemented just after 2018 and the Paralympians were paid increases retroactively. Before the increase in salary, Athletes will now receive $37,500 for each gold medal earned at the Paralympics, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze, boosting compensation for some Paralympians by as much as 400%, according to the International Paralympic Committee.”
“Previously, Paralympic athletes had received $7,500 for every gold medal, $5,250 for a silver, and $3,750 for bronze, The New York Times reported. More than $1.2 million was disbursed to the 2018 Paralympic medalists following the committee’s decision.”
I am so happy about this because it’s another step in the right direction of society recognizing and acknowledging the capabilities of people with disabilities and it’s internationally recognized. When I think about all of the history that’s happened within my life whether it’s with technology, people with disabilities, or something else, I’m happy about the strides we’ve made to move forward. That being said we know that there is still so much more to do. The sports world isn’t the only place where there is a pay disparity between people with disabilities and their able-bodied counterparts. These industries need to follow the lead of sports industry and any others that are paying people with disabilities equal amounts because they recognize their worth.
Though I may be writing it here, I know that it’s far from simple or easier said than done so to speak and one of those reasons is disability benefits. Not everyone with a disability receives these benefits, but those that do have a host of restrictions placed upon them including how much they can earn and save. This needs to change so that people with disabilities can be paid their worth regards to the industry they work in without fear that it will negatively impact how they live their daily lives.
I hope that one day it will change so that when girls with disabilities see models, actresses, Olympians, or women in various industries doing something they want to do, no one tell them no, at least not because they don’t think they will be able to do it, but because they are worried about losing vital services that help them with living how they want to
According to several articles, the coverage of the Paralympics will be more extensive than ever. I’m excited to see live-action competitions from athletes I’ve been hearing about and I’m looking forward see what kind of coverage there will be. I’m excited and hopeful that the increased coverage will inspire the next generation of Paralympians and lead to more open dialogues about what life is really like for those of us with disabilities. Yes, we have limitations, but we also have amazing capabilities just like anyone else.
We’re moving slowly, but we are moving in the right direction. People with disabilities are actually getting cast in roles to play people with disabilities as well as roles that have nothing to do with it. Fashion and beauty brands are working with ambassadors with disabilities as the world moves to redefine what beauty means or really a more realistic definition of it. We’ve moved forward, but it’s up to people with disabilities and allies to keep bringing awareness and speaking up to ensure that we don’t stop moving. There are misconceptions about the capabilities of people with disabilities, so sports and people with disabilities is not widely considered as a possibility. However, that’s why media coverage of sports featuring people with disabilities needs to happen, to start the conversation. Representation and inclusion matter and need be in sports, media coverage, the workplace aand various industries, especially beauty and fashion.