THE SOMETIMES patronising, frequently gushing praise of the inspiring paralympians is a timely reminder to consider the many people with disabilities who face daily challenges greater than those on the world's sporting stage.
Brave, courageous, determined, fearless and other epithets frequently accompany the names of athletes at the Paralympic Games. Fair enough too, for most if not all have achieved their success under circumstances which daunt many people who lack the will or ability to find a way to become unshackled from their disability.
Many of these people have untapped skills but without the glamour attaching to sporting success remain devalued by society. Despite their considerable intellectual and/or physical abilities, many who would otherwise be employed are disregarded.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data indicates only 54 per cent of disabled people aged 15-64 are employed. Meanwhile 83 per cent of the same age group without a major disability are employed.
Technological advances have greatly helped many disabled people with work and domestic tasks. However, their rate of employment has scarcely changed over about the past 20 years.
Of course, disability covers a broad spectrum and includes profound disabilities which preclude employment. But, as demonstrated by the athletes at the Paralympics, much can be achieved despite what are still significant disabilities.
It should not require a reminder every four years to make this point. And when the point is made it should not be confined to athletes. Those who admire, respect and are inspired by the magnificent feats of athletes with a disability might reflect on folk who show as much courage, determination and perseverance in their daily personal and professional lives.
People might consider, too, those refused employment and other opportunities simply by dint of a disability which would not impinge on the task in question. Or even if it did, to consider how this might be overcome.
There is also the question of barriers, physical and otherwise, which make life more difficult than it need be for people who lack particular abilities.
Such physical barriers include: everyday appliances which require good sight and at least average dexterity to operate; suburban footpaths overgrown by the plants and herbage of thoughtless residents; motor vehicles parked on or across pathways; signs, chairs and tables plonked haphazardly on footpaths and walkways; and displays of goods which overflow from shops to further restrict pedestrian access by people with a range of disabilities. Despite this, life for most Australian disabled people is significantly better than even 30 years ago, largely brought about by technological advances and some legislative changes.