11:05AM, Thursday 05 September 2013
While last year's games boosted the public's image of Paralympians, attitudes towards the larger disabled community have not changed, according to gold medallist Sophie Christiansen.
The former pupil of Charter's School in Sunningdale, who now lives in Boyn Hill Road, Maidenhead, was speaking after disability charity Scope carried out a survey a year on from London 2012 and said its legacy 'hangs in the balance'.
The study canvassed a thousand people including Paralympians, other disabled people and experts. More than 80 percent of disabled people polled said there has been no improvement in attitudes towards them since the Paralympic Games.
The survey found nearly one in five (17 per cent) report they have either experienced hostile or threatening behaviour or have been attacked.
Sophie, 25, who won three equestrian gold medals at the London Games, said: "During the Paralympic Games, Great Britain saw what disabled people could do.
"It was a turning point in perception.
"However, it was just the start.
"Just like not every able-bodied person is not going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, not every disabled person is going to be a Paralympian.
"The challenge is now bridging the gap between the disabled community and Paralympians."
Additionally, 81 per cent of disabled people polled said attitudes towards them have not improved in the last year – with 22 per cent saying things have got worse.
Alice Maynard, chairman of Scope, said the 'jury is very much out' as to whether there has been a legacy from the Paralympics.
She said more needs to be done to tackle the 'crisis in social care', cuts to vital financial support, and to call a halt to the 'benefits scrounger rhetoric'.
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