Heading down to the Accentuate Symposium in Brighton began with a bit of an interesting twist. We arrived at St Pancras to get the train, but a fire had just been reported, so the whole train line had been shut down, not to be deterred (and running out of time) a quick ride on the underground found us at London Bridge where we jumped on the next train. It was on this train that we met a man named Vidar, who was also heading to the Accentuate Symposium. It turned out that Vidar (who is visually impaired) is an Accentuate Ambassador and was opening the Symposium. We got to Brighton eventually and decided it was far to nice a day and that we would walk, so my PA Elke offered her arm to Vidar and we walked the sunny streets of Brighton down to the venue.
Vidars’ speech was followed by many other panellists discussing issues such as; the news supporting disabled people during the games only to change the headlines months later to call them scroungers and how not all disabled people are athletes and therefore the Paralympics may have given the public the wrong idea. There were also discussions about disabled artists and the issues that they faced in the lead up to the games and how it has changed, mostly for the better since. There was also a very interesting discussion about young people with disabilities who have never met an adult with a disability and how strange it could be, there was a story about a young boy with CP who had never met a disabled adult and he thought when he grew up his disability would disappear. The youth panel said that ‘we need more disabled adults, not just sporting heroes, but ordinary people to have more of an impact on our disabled youth’.
Another speaker, Vicky Hope-Walker said that ‘we are shaped by our experiences, it is important to have interaction with everyone in your life so you can break down attitudes of disability and diversity’. This is so true, particularly in every day situations such as getting a job, or work experience. It was refreshing to hear all of these opinions in one place. Whilst attitudes to disabled people may have changed since the Paralympics I think, along with most of the other people who were at the symposium, that there is still much more work to be done, particularly in light of the recent budget cuts that have happened and will be happening. Onwards and Upwards!