Alex Brooker: Don't get hung up about being PC. They're tough, this is real sport – enjoy it

 

People should not walk on eggshells around the disabled.

When I was born, my right foot was twisted, and so it was amputated. I was also born with hand deformities. Although I don't like using that word (I prefer saying "hand issues" or "hand disabilities"), it would be a shame to have a big list of what people can and cannot say, and the Paralympics could help us in getting rid of those apprehensions of how to treat disabled people – this awkwardness that some people can feel.

While we are advanced in this country in terms of our attitudes towards disability, there is still a level of unease about what you can and can't say.

In everyday life, when someone falls out of a wheelchair, you hear a gasp of horror. But if you watch the wheelchair rugby you'll see that is par for the course; they simply pick themselves up and play on. When I see someone in a wheelchair, even I do a double-take. And as someone who has a prosthetic leg, when I see someone not wearing their legs I think "Oh my god". Some people look at me because they've never seen somebody who looks like me, and that's just human nature – it's not offensive. You might stare at an able-bodied person if they're dressed in an unusual way.

What matters is that your initial curiosity doesn't make you feel ashamed or embarrassed about what you've done, and prevent you from talking to disabled people.

As the Paralympics unfold, we'll see athletes with incredible stories behind their achievements, and it is not necessarily patronising to celebrate that. But we shouldn't necessarily sympathise with Paralympians who underperform. These are real sports – that much will be quickly apparent – and we should treat them as such. If someone is expected to win gold and they come eighth, people should ask why, because this is not just a second-rate Olympics.

This next fortnight has the potential to be a huge moment for disabled people in Britain: we can really add to people's understanding of disability. We are just the same as everybody else. Just because you're disabled doesn't mean you cannot achieve great things.

It is rare for people with disabilities to be exposed to such a mainstream audience. When I grew up, I never saw disabled presenters on television, and to an extent that is still the case. The role models just didn't exist.

Of course there is always the worry that there will be little lasting impact from this Games. But the signs so far are good: the buzz has begun, there have never been so many tickets sold to a Paralympics, and there is far greater media coverage than there was for Beijing.

My father drilled it into me as a kid that I was no different from anybody else, and that I wouldn't be getting any special treatment in life. And though I whinged for a while, I'm grateful for that advice now.

Alex Brooker, 28, is a Paralympics presenter for Channel 4

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness