The Paralympics was pivotal in changing perceptions about injured people across the world. Here in the United Kingdom we are more open minded and accepting of disability than some other countries – we have a growing understanding of the need for equality and diversity in many areas of life.
The paralympians acquired their disabilities in many ways – some through birth defects, many through accidents and illnesses that had befallen them in their lives. Physical impairment had not resulted in any impairment of their spirit. They were not bitter. They were inspirational examples of commitment, hard work, and triumph over adversity.
There is no doubt that the sort of accidents that many of them had suffered would be life changing events – losing a limb, losing their sight, enduring a spinal injury. Rehabilitation is instrumental in making a good recovery after a catastrophic injury. Early rehabilitation enables the best physical recovery possible, and will help to deal with the mental scars as well – it is easy for the injured person to be overcome by depression and to be unable to cope with changed circumstances.
Obviously, there are many people disabled in accidents who do not go on to be paralympians. Sometimes, their injuries will be caused by the negligence of another – for example, at the hands of a doctor in hospital – and the injured person can then seek compensation to enable him to get his life back on track. In a catastrophic injury, the compensation will cover rehabilitation, wheelchairs or false limbs, adaptation of property to suit the disability, and future care needs. Such care provides the springboard for the injured person to get his life back on track.
Compensation matters. And yet, a report last week by Professor Frank Furedi suggested that it was morally reprehensible to sue a public body for a personal injury claim. How can this be true? Is he really suggesting that a mother who has carried a healthy baby full term, but then when, through a bungled delivery the baby ends up with brain damage, that child should be denied compensation which would pay for proper care throughout the child’s life? Who knows whether that child will eventually become a paralympian too, given proper care and rehabilitation?
This summer, many disabled people became heroes, yet even now the argument is being made that compensation should be denied to some people injured through negligence. Compensation is not ‘winnings’ – it is about the gutsy reality of trying to live through a catastrophic injury and get the best recovery and the fullest life possible. The Paralympics gave us some excellent role models. The games showed how full a life a disabled person can lead when provided with proper care.
Compensation is investment in a human being whose life may have been shattered. Surely such an investment is more than justified.
Let’s not undo the good work this country has done in putting disabled people centre stage.