Tanni Grey-Thompson: 'Stop the ghetto for disabled sport'
Speaking about her excitement about the Paralympics in the days before the games begin, Baroness Grey-Thompson said she hopes the unprecedented interest will help lead to wider changes.
“Disabled people should be able to go to any club or gym and join in,” she told The Big Issue. “At the moment disabled people are still sort of sent to certain places. They have a Saturday morning club rather than being integrated. For some people that’s appropriate, but not for everybody, so I’d like to see more integration.”
The former wheelchair racer, winner of 11 golds at four consecutive games, also hopes the Paralympics may shift social attitudes more generally. “Disabled people can be ghettoized, forgotten about and there’s still a lot of discrimination out there,” she said.
“Hopefully it allows people to understand a bit more about the reality of being disabled. At the moment the portrayal of disabled people means either athletes competing for GB, or work-shy benefit scroungers. But that’s not reality for the majority – those things are right at the edges and there’s a whole load of stuff in the middle that doesn’t get shown much.”
Grey-Thompson also said the hard work required to create a lasting legacy following the Olympics was yet to begin. Condemning the sell-off of school playing fields, she said: “How can children do sport in school if they don’t have the playing fields? I think it’s a complete false economy.
"Kids who do sport are less likely to get in trouble. Girls who do sport are less likely to be teenage mums. All the things we say we want in our society.”
“And it’s not just about sport in school – it’s about housing and other kinds of support. Kids in better quality housing are more likely to do well in sport and be fit and healthy. In politics we tend to do everything in silos – we need to get better at joining things up.”
Read more from Sebastian Coe, Ade Adepitan and the British athletes competing in this year’s Paralympics in the new Big Issue, on the streets Monday August 27