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In celebration of diversity and human excellence

A woman high jumper

The Paralympics begin today. And I loved an article by John Head, senior lecturer in prosthetics and biomechanics at the University of Salford, celebrating the fact that

achievements of the Paralympians, alongside societal shifts towards more inclusivity and the celebration of diversity has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people living with disability.

John argues that

changes in the perception of disability in society has led many people with limb absence to feel empowered to embrace their physical status, rather than hide it from public view – showcasing their prostheses with colourful and dynamic components.

This celebration of what it means to be human – not just a member of a patrician elite able to pass the microscopic scrutiny of the Spartan Committee for the Exposure of Inadequates – resonates with me and I believe with the work of my colleagues. John’s closing exclamation – “Here’s to the super-humans” – is lovely.

But we have a lot of work still to do. Today also saw the publication of a new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that children with disabilities are almost twice as likely to be victims of crime as their siblings and class-mates. The Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac, explicitly challenged our assumptions about the legacy of the London Paralympic Games, and perhaps challenged John Head’s optimism: “These findings are a wake-up call that there is still much more that needs to change. We cannot hope to create a more inclusive society for future generations while disabled children continue to live in a climate of fear of victimisation.”

I’m proud that we, as psychologists, are playing our part in celebrating our wonderful human diversity. Staying in the field of sport, Professor Jan Burns. In 2015, Jan was awarded an MBE for her work with people with intellectual disabilities, and she joined the Board of Special Olympics earlier this year. 

Professor Celia Kitzinger’s Lifetime Achievement Award was a celebration of her work as a campaigner for social justice, informed by her research.

Across the discipline of psychology, my colleagues are working to challenge prejudice and discrimination, and to break down barriers between people.

In the words of the fantastic ‘OnlyUs’ campaign;

When we separate ourselves and imagine humanity divided … we allow stigma, prejudice and exclusion to ruin potentially good and creative lives.

As John Head points out, the Paralympics and the Special Olympics both allow us to celebrate the achievements of people overcoming obstacles that I would have found daunting.