Sophie ChristiansenAs a survey suggest major improvements in attitudes towards disability as a result of the 2012 Paralympics, gold medalist Sophie Christiansen tells Channel 4 News it is time to stop focusing on sport.

Christiansen, who won three gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, told Channel 4 News “there is still a long way to go” following the government survey which found that two-thirds of people think the London 2012 Paralympics improved the “attitude of the general public towards disabled people”.

“Not everybody can be a Paralympian and I think for day-to-day life we need to raise perceptions and maybe teach disabled people that they can be anything they want to be, it doesn’t have to be in sport,” she said.

The equestrian said the government has taken great steps in improving conditions for disabled people, including getting more disabled people into work.

But she said: “There is a still long way to go in understanding what it is like to be disabled and how much support we need.”

Christiansen said the focus needs to shift away from the “small proportions of disability” represented by the Paralympics, and that the focus should be on creating “more role models with different disabilities in different areas.”

“I do think that a lot of focus is on the Paralympics and possibly we need to move away from sport now and we need to focus on disability in a broader sense.”

‘Challenging mind-sets’

The Department for Work and Pensions survey, to mark two years since London hosted the Paralympic Games, found that 68 per cent of people think the public’s attitude towards disabled people has improved.

However, of the disabled people surveyed 56.1 per cent felt the statement was true, compared with 70.7 per cent of non-disabled people.

Nearly one in five disabled people asked said they did not think the games had improved the perception of disabled people, compared to 9.4 per cent of non-disabled people.

Despite the responses to the “general public’s view”, when respondents were asked if their own view had changed the results were lower. Just 41 per cent of people said they had a more positive view of disabled people following the 2012 games.

Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning said: “London 2012 helped lead to a transformation in the representation of, and attitudes towards, disabled people in Britain.

“It challenged mind-sets and left a positive lasting legacy. But more still needs to be done to challenge perceptions.

“Twelve million people in Britain have a disability – that’s one in five of us. Disabled people have the same aspirations as everyone else, particularly in the workplace.”

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