Newsletter September 2012
Issued on September 2 2012
The opening of the Paralympic Games was a magnificent spectacle. The Games providea global arena for elite athletes, and people justifiably marvel at their ability and dedication to achievement.
The insight, back in the 50's, to have a parallel Olympic Games for athletes with disabilities was a 'game changer' for the future expectations of people with disabilities, and an indication to governments and society that people with disabilities were on the move, and were not going to accept the imposed status of objects of benign care, without hope of participation in life.
The small team of Irish Paralympic athletes that participated at the first Paralympic Games in Rome in 1960 were not only exercising hope and possibility in their own lives, but were the pioneers and role models for all who have followed. The Rehabilitation Institute, now Rehab, organised the participation of that Irish team. On returning home, a number of the athletes participated in the founding of the Irish Wheelchair Association, later that year. At this stage, many of those original athletes are no longer with us, and many others have come and gone. What they started and developed remains a beacon of hope and participation to all who find themselves having to come to terms with disability.
Great Britain, through pioneering work in Stoke Mandeville Hospital (ever associated with Dr. Ludwig Guttmann who had come to Britain from Germany in 1939 because of the Nazi persecution of the Jews), was where it all started during the Second World War. Fifteen years later we had the first Paralympic Games. Soon after the war the United Nations was established, and then followed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The establishment of these Games was an expression of people taking on life and putting their own effort and will at the center, at a time when society was way behind in its thinking. At that time, the best that people with disabilities could expect was an existence of care, while the worst was embodied in the Nazi ideology of disabled people as “life not worthy of living.”
Let us never under estimate the significance of these athletes and the many able bodied volunteers and supporters that keep making it happen. The Paralympic Games represents one of many sporting endeavors engaged in by people with disabilities and disabling conditions. These endeavors are all to be valued.
I started writing this piece on Thursday morning, 30th August, and then the day took a different turn, with the announcement of the HSE cuts. However I returned to this article, as it is it is in such endeavors as the Paralympic Games that we will get and keep our resolve to deal with the current crisis.
Chief Executive Officer