With memories of the most successful Paralympic Games of all time still fresh in everyone’s mind, a quiz designed to engage non-disabled people in a light-hearted conversation about respect for disabled people revealed that a majority of non-disabled people had no problem using facilities set aside for the needs of disabled people.
The Saint or Sinner Quiz, rolled out by national disabled people’s charity Revitalise to coincide with the Paralympics, found that 6 out of 10 (57%) non-disabled people use disabled toilets and are showing no signs of stopping, with 1 in 5 (17%) saying they had “done it loads of times and really don’t see any harm in it”. The study also found that more than 1 in 10 (12%) non-disabled people use disabled parking spaces either sometimes or habitually.
Revitalise is citing a study by the charity Scope in the run-up to the Rio Games, which found that even though 78% of disabled people thought the 2012 London Paralympics had a positive effect on people’s attitudes to disability, only 19% thought Britain was a better place to be disabled than it was four years ago. Revitalise is therefore calling for positive action to preserve the Paralympic legacy in order to reverse this trend.
In March this year a House of Lords Select Committee Report* made 54 separate recommendations to the Government in order to strengthen the Equality Act, but so far the Government has acted on only one. In July this year the Equality and Human Rights Commission alleged that disabled people were still being treated like “second class citizens”, while Revitalise’s own research has added weight to the argument that society is only paying lip service to the needs of disabled people.
In a recent study of visitor attractions, Revitalise found that a fifth (20%) of the UK’s most visited attractions were not fully accessible from outside and just 17% had all their staff trained in disability awareness. The charity also found similar problems on the high street, where over half (55%) of disabled people had experienced negative or unwelcoming treatment from shop staff.
Most recently, in August 2015 Revitalise discovered that only three football clubs in the Premiership – the world’s richest football league – had the recommended number of spaces for wheelchair users, in accordance with guidelines that have been in existence for well over 10 years.
The charity believes that the aftermath of the successful Rio Paralympics presents the perfect opportunity for non-disabled people to contribute to the Paralympic legacy and add to the groundswell of pressure on policy-makers to back up the good intentions of the Equality Act with meaningful legislation.
To achieve this, Revitalise is urging non-disabled people to take on board the philosophy of Team GB, whose success is based on many small improvements adding up to one seismic change. So, the charity suggests, if non-disabled people simply make one or more small adjustment to their own habits, they will be helping to create a more inclusive and equitable society for disabled people.
Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds commented:
“We’ve just witnessed the most successful Paralympic Games of all time and legacy is now the word on everyone’s lips. Our Saint or Sinner Quiz was designed to explore the habits of non-disabled people and help them do their bit to keep the Paralympic flame burning.
“In the six years since the launch of the Equality Act it is very disheartening to find that when it comes to making society more open and accessible for disabled people, those with the power to enforce change seem to have made so little progress. Disabled people face a huge number of barriers – from physical access to transport to employment – which already obstruct them from playing a more meaningful role in society, so it is doubly disheartening to find disabled people are also being held back by something as simple as access to a toilet or parking space.
“So, in the warm glow of the Rio Games, if we as individuals can just make one or more small adjustment to our habits, we will be going a long way towards creating a better, more respectful world for disabled people and truly keeping the Paralympic legacy alive!”