Rio Paralympics 2016: Where is the Australian version of 'We are the Superhumans'?
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Rio Paralympics 2016: Where is the Australian version of 'We are the Superhumans'?

Australian crooner Tony Dee glides across the court as basketball players in wheelchairs smash and crash around him.

A pair of dancers with one prosthetic leg each tap across the screen.

A woman lifts her baby with her feet.

It's all part of British television station Channel Four's advertisement for their Paralympic Games coverage, and it has gone viral, watched by more than 2.5 million people on YouTube. It makes for joyful viewing.

A still from the "We are the Superhumans" Paralympic ad.

A still from the "We are the Superhumans" Paralympic ad.

Photo: Channel Four
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Set to Sammy Davis Jr's Yes I Can, "We're the Superhumans" is a jubilant display of people with disabilities thriving, elite athletes in full flight and ordinary people in everyday life.

Britain and Channel Four have strong form in this area.

The 2012 London Paralympic Games broke ticket sales records, helped along by a clever campaign by the broadcaster, which sought to celebrate the event as important in its own right.

"Thanks for the warm-up" was their cheeky tagline when it was aired just after the Olympic closing ceremony, and the first incarnation of "We're the Superhumans" played out to Public Enemy's Harder Than You Think.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme puts the economic power where it always belonged: in the hands of the clients.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme puts the economic power where it always belonged: in the hands of the clients.

Photo: Channel Four

The Paralympics in 2012 brought Channel Four some of its best ratings.

The Australian Paralympic Committee's chief executive officer Lynne Anderson said she loved the latest British advertisement.

The games were a high-level sporting event, but also an opportunity to change negative public perceptions about disability, she said.

"["We're the Superhumans"] was more than elite athletes doing sport, it was amazing people doing extraordinary things," she said.

Bonnie Millen, president of advocacy body People with Disability Australia, was similarly enthusiastic.

"It's one of the best Paralympics ads I've seen," she said. "There were people in everyday life as well as sports stars, it's amazing to see."

But not everyone loves the ad.

Some disability advocates have said it veers dangerously close to inspiration porn, perpetuating the myth that a good attitude is all that stands in the way of people with a disability doing whatever they please, when they face real barriers – many caused by discrimination and a lack of inclusive infrastructure.

Not every disabled person can be a superhuman in the same way not every person without a disability can be an Olympic athlete, they point out.

Millen understands their concerns, because too often people with a disability are excluded from mainstream sports.

But she said Yes I Can was the perfect soundtrack for the advertisement, because it supported the idea that people with a disability can participate and make their own decisions.

She said the way people thought about disability needed to be challenged.

"Cultural perceptions can change if people are listened to and asked what they want."

But where is the Australian version of "We are the Superhumans"?

Anderson said this year would be the first time a free-to-air commercial station would air the Paralympics, when Channel Seven takes it on.

She said she was pleased with the broadcaster's support, including the telethon it held earlier this year to raise money for the Australian team.

But Millen said Australia had a way to go in the way it celebrated the Paralympics.

"[Britain is] miles ahead of us in terms of cultural perceptions of disability and social perceptions of disability," she said.

Larissa Nicholson

Larissa Nicholson is a journalist at The Age.

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