8 Sep 2012

Paralympic Games shifts attitudes towards disabilities

The superhuman efforts of the Paralympic athletes prompts a positive swell in public attitudes to disabilities in the UK, according to a Channel 4 poll.

For half of those surveyed, London 2012 Paralympics is the first paralympic games they have ever watched.

Yet by the time the closing ceremony concludes on Sunday evening Channel 4 will have broadcast almost 500 hours of coverage – an increase of 400 per cent on the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Coverage has brought record audiences of 37 million people across the Games.

More than 11 million people tuned in to watch the opening ceremony – Channel 4’s biggest audience in more than 10 years.

Two thirds of the 2,000 people surveyed by Channel 4 said the extensive coverage has had a good impact on their perceptions towards people with disabilities and disabled sport.

More than 80 per cent of the public surveyed agreed that disabled athletes are as talented as able-bodied athletes, rising to 91 per cent among those who had watched the coverage.

Channel 4 poll on the effect of the London 2012 Paralympic Games on British people's attitudes towards disabled people and disabled sports (Image: Reuters)

Almost 65 per cent said the Paralympic Games is as good as the Olympic Games – a figure that climbs to 79 per cent among those who have viewed the television coverage.

Jay Hunt, Channel 4’s chief creative officer, said: “Over the last week and half, the superhuman achievements of the elite athletes at the London 2012 Paralympic Games have captivated the British public.

“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to bring a new audience to the Paralympics and, more importantly, that our coverage has played a part in delivering a lasting legacy in changing people’s perceptions of both disability and disabled sport.”

More than 11 million people tuned in to watch the opening ceremony – Channel 4’s biggest audience in more than 10 years.

Meanwhile Jonnie Peacock’s gold medal win in the T44 100m on Thrilling Thursday attracted the biggest ever Paralympic sports audience in the UK with a peak of 6.3m viewers.

Channel 4 has invested more than £600,000 since 2010 in training and developing 10 new disabled presenters and reporters who have played major roles in the coverage of the Games.

The poll, conducted by BDRC Continental and YouGov, showed that 80 per cent of people enjoyed having disabled reporters present the Games and almost three quarters said they liked the matter of fact discussions around disabilities.