Calling Paralympians ‘Superhuman’​

This is going to be one of those topics where we will probably have to agree to disagree. You only need to google the words ‘Disabled people as superhuman’ to see just how long this topic has been aggravating the disabled community, and you can understand why calling Paralympians “superhuman” isn’t the empowering sentiment you might think it is, especially as many disabled people struggle to be seen as barely human. We don’t exactly roll out of bed, pull up our lycra underpants and stick a cape on!

If the Paralympics is all about being superwomen and supermen, does that mean that the rest of us in the disabled community are merely the Kara Danvers of the world? We are not treated as heroes in our daily lives. In fact, according to Scope who released new figures this year, more than a third of disabled people in the UK feel totally excluded from sports, barriers such as negative attitudes, inaccessible sporting venues and the lack of trained staff to support special needs.

After the 2012 games in London Hannah Cockroft a gold medal-winner in track in the Paralympic, appeared to recognise the issue back in 2012. Speaking on law firm Irwin Mitchell’s new podcast, ‘Let’s Talk About It’ which discusses what it’s really like to live with a disability, she said: “I’ve met so many disabled people since London 2012 who have said, ‘I want to get involved with sport, but when I’m pushing down the street, everyone asks, why are you not on the track against Dave Weir or Jonnie Peacock or whoever?’ Suddenly we got labelled the ‘superhumans’, during London – but it wasn’t just the Paralympians who got labelled, it was disabled people in general.”

It’s not the sport, as that can be hugely entertaining to watch or the stars themselves, who can be very engaging. But it is partly the inspiration porn that seems to follow, that leads to the perception that if you’re pushing a wheelchair around a car park you must be the next gold medalists.

The Paralympics this year we see a bold campaign has been created with the athletes’ stories at the heart. It shows them as elite competitors, making huge personal sacrifices to compete at the top of their sport, but also as disabled people who continue to face discrimination in their daily life. However, we will never truly see true equality until all disabled people are represented across all areas of life. The Paralympics and surrounding coverage will be a catalyst for sparking discussions about disability and bringing disabled people’s lives to the forefront.

Until those conversations happen, the whole term “superhumans” doesn’t help the constant tiring battle we all face within society to be seen as just being human. Regardless of whether you’re a Paralympian, or just like me a disabled person just trying to get through every day like everyone else within this crazy world.