On twitter, @DisabilityBitch reminds us that being disabled does not mean you're smiley all the time and like being patronised. Her dislike of the overuse of 'inspirational' this summer was understandable as while the athletes were certainly inspiring they were so much more than a cliché.
Staff and volunteers assisting the public this summer were given advice and training on disability awareness as many may never have spoken to someone with a visible disability. Advice included:
1. Wait to be asked. Don't presume someone needs assistance immediately. When approached, ask how you can help as the individual knows their disability best and knows what is needed to help in this instance.
2. Do not make assumptions based on the disability you can see as the individual may have more than one impairment. Hidden disabilities are common. Also, because you can't see a disability do not presume there isn't one.
3. If a disabled person is travelling with a companion address the person who asks for assistance. Do not presume the person in the wheelchair will not be able to explain their own needs. But also realise it may be the able-bodied companion who has a query.
4. When helping someone with a visual impairment introduce yourself first. They don't know who you are as they can't see you! Also, remember to say when you're leaving so they know that too.
5. When helping someone with a hearing impairment face them directly and speak clearly, but not unnaturally slowly, as they may lip-read. If you are having problems communicating ask if it would help to write things down.
6. Treat an adult who ask for help as an adult whatever their disability.
As disabled people live in the same world as everyone else they are used to hearing the same common phrases such as "See you later" and "I'll be running along now" and while you may feel you've made a terrible gaffe someone who is visually-impaired or a wheelchair user generally won't take offence.
What is offensive is to describe the disabled person as a victim of something tragic. They are not "suffering from" their disability and it is something they know how to manage every day. To describe someone as "wheelchair bound" suggests the wheelchair is not a tool that offers mobility and freedom which, of course, it is.
We'll wait to see what the sporting legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games turns out to be in the future but for the rest of us who aren't 'superhuman' hopefully it has raised awareness that we all get on with the same daily life whatever our body's limitations.
Image credits: Menage a Moi, Transport for London, click.