2012 Paralympics changed people's perceptions of disability and disabled sport, BU study finds
8 January 2013
The London 2012 Paralympic Games led to greater confidence and less anxiety in talking about disability and disabled sport, a Bournemouth University (BU) study has found.
The study was commissioned by Channel 4, broadcasters of the 2012 Paralympic Games, and was completed by the Creative Enterprise Bureau, a marketing consultancy based in BU's Media School which involves staff and students from the Corporate and Marketing Communications academic group.
They found that viewers were genuinely surprised by how emotive and thrilling the games were, and began to see sporting excellence rather than only the disability.
Over the course of two years they conducted in-depth interviews with participants - based in London, Bournemouth and Newcastle - about their thoughts and experiences of disability and disabled sport.
"The focus was on experiences and the stories that people had," said Dr Dan Jackson, senior lecturer in Media and Communication at BU, who helped coordinate the study.
"We wanted to speak to a whole cross-section of people, so the interviews included disabled people, people with direct experience of disability and disability sport, people with an interest in sport and TV watching, and people who had no interest at all.
"We were most interested in how this massive sporting event impacted on people's lives."
The participants were interviewed in four phases before and after the London 2012 Paralympic Games, and Dan said that, before the event, there did not seem to be much change in the way people were talking about disability and disabled sports.
"There were a lot of barriers - people didn't know how to talk about it," he said.
"Many people did not have experiences of disability because it was very rarely on our screens. There was not a great deal of knowledge or interest in Paralympic sport.
"But there seemed to be a lot of good will towards it - people saying "It should be on TV, it's a worthwhile thing, but I won't really go out of my way to watch it."
However, after the London 2012 Paralympic Games, people's perceptions and experiences of disability and disabled sport seemed to change.
The study found:
Dan said: "We couldn't find anyone who hadn't experienced any of the Paralympics - even if they hadn't watched it directly, it was second-hand through the news or other people.
"While the summer of sport, particularly the Olympics, was quite moving for the whole country, it had a huge impact and was the central focus all summer, and the Paralympics benefited from that.
"But for some people it suffered, as it seemed to be considered an afterthought."
He added: "Some of the people who were least likely to watch and enjoy it, got beyond that and beyond the disabilities and were watching it as a sport just like any other sport."
Around half of the Corporate and Marketing department at BU helped with the study, along with final year Marketing, PR and Advertising students.
Dan said it was great to be involved with such a high profile project, and that they were now hoping to write a book around the findings.
"One of the great parts of it from our point of view was that it was a really good project that involved so many people in our department," he said.
"The 2012 Olympics and Paralympics were massive for the country and it only seemed to really hit home when we started quite how big a deal this whole thing was.
"To be part of that and doing the research on that was great."
To find out more about the academic research services offered by the Creative Enterprise Bureau please contact Liam Toms on 01202 96202 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further information can also be found at www.creativeenterprisebureau.com
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