Our Fall 2012 issue of The Spin comes out at the end of the month! To get you all riled up, here’s a preview of Executive Director Chris McBride’s editorial. If you don’t already get The Spin in the mail, sign up for your free subscription here.
ACCESS AND INCLUSION. These are important concepts for the disability community, and they have been at the heart of SCI BC’s mission since 1957.On the surface, they seem necessarily linked—after all, without access, it’s very hard to achieve inclusion.
However, we must be careful about what we mean by access. And we must not assume that, because we are a province and nation that has often led the way in improving the accessibility of our communities, that BC or Canada is a leader in inclusion. Case in point: the Paralympics and Canada’s inexcusably pitiful television coverage of the Games.
The Paralympics have become a powerful symbol of achievement and possibility for people with disabilities. Through sport, we witness the triumph of the human spirit in overcoming physical and societal obstacles, and through this, society moves toward greater inclusion for all.
Too bad, then, that the Canada’s Olympic Broadcast Media Consortium which held the broadcast rights to the 2012 Paraplympics, chose not to dedicate TV time to the Paralympics. Too bad that the Consortium’s sports networks barely covered highlights from the games. Too bad that they missed the opportunity to push the stories of triumph and disappointment on their websites or smartphone apps. Yes, there was online coverage, which is some consolation, but based on the level of overall coverage, it’s clear that Canadian broadcasters do not deem disability to be important. They are not supporters of inclusion.
Contrast this with coverage in Great Britain, a country not known for the accessibility of its cities and infrastructure. I had the good fortune of passing through London on the closing day of the Olympics and again on day three of the Paralympics. I witnessed the equal excitement the city had for both. They fully embraced the Paralympics—in spirit and on TV, where full coverage of the Paralympics was provided daily.
This drove home the rather obvious fact that simply making our communities physically accessible is not enough to create full inclusion. Access to the stories and events that can change societal attitudes and remove perceptual barriers is just as, if not more important for enhancing inclusion for all.
I hope that all of the people who have complained to me about the lack of Paralympic coverage here in Canada send their complaints to the TV networks that failed to provide it. I hope that all our supporters and members SIGN THE ONLINE PETITION encouraging broadcasters to provide full coverage to the games. And I hope that by the time the Winter Paralympics roll around in 2014, that I can turn on the TV and see Paralympic curler and SCI BC Peer Coordinator Sonja Gaudet competing for Gold and inspiring even more people with disabilities to take up curling or other forms of sport or active living.
It’s only through broader access to important and culturally significant events like the Paralympics that we can truly leverage the relative accessibility of our physical infrastructure to become a true leader in inclusion.