Live updates

'Gap needs to narrow' between Paralympians & disabled

Para-Equestrian gold medalist Sophie Christiansen has said that the UK needs to "narrow the gap" between how it views Paralympians and attitudes towards disabled people in general.

Sophie told ITV News: "I think a year ago at the Paralympics everyone was at an all-time high. perceptions of disability had really changed. I think a tear on perceptions are still changing, they're still positive towards Paralympians and to a certain extend disability.

"I do think a slight negativity is creeping in, in terms of stories in the news about 'benefit scroungers'.

"We really need to narrow that gap between Paralympians and the regular disability community. You can be disabled and not do sport and still do amazing things."

Scope: 'Benefit scrounger' rhetoric damaging attitudes

The disability charity Scope has blamed "'benefit scrounger' rhetoric" for the worsening attitude towards the disabled.

An ITV News poll has shown that more than 80% of disabled people say that attitudes towards them have not improved since the Paralympics:

The starting gun has been fired on the legacy debate.

Changing attitudes is at the heart of legacy. The Paralympics were a break-through moment. Disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly. But you don't change society in a fortnight.

Speak to disabled people and the same issue comes up: 'benefit scrounger' rhetoric; the divisive myth that most people on benefits are skivers.

Disabled people say they feel like they've done something wrong, because they need support to do the same things as everyone else.

The Government must stop the scrounger rhetoric once-and-for-all.

The Paralympics has inspired a small number to be more involved in sport or the community.

But ultimately it comes down a simple point: if you don't have the support you need to get up, get washed and get out of the house; if you're struggling to pay the bills - it's a big ask to join a tennis club.

– Alice Maynard, Chair of disability charity Scope

Advertisement

Disabled attitudes 'got worse since the Paralympics'

Almost a year on from the start of London Paralympics, the disability charity Scope is arguing that its legacy "hangs in the balance". A survey carried out for ITV News reveals that nearly a quarter of disabled people believe attitudes towards them have got worse since the Paralympics.

Disabled people are warning that short term improvements in public attitudes, sport and community involvement are being undermined by 'scrounger rhetoric', a crisis in living standards and a squeeze on local care.

In a survey of 1,000 disabled people carried out for ITV News :

  • 80% do not think attitudes towards them have improved in the last twelve months
  • 22% saying that things have actually got worse, and most of them blaming "benefit scrounger" rhetoric
  • 1 in 5 disabled people report they have either experienced hostile or threatening behaviour or even been attacked
  • 100 days after the Paralympics 72% had said that the Paralympics had a positive impact on attitudes towards the disabled in general.

Paralympian stuns family with wedding dance

Paralympian Nathan Stephens has spoken of his joy at dancing for the first time in his life with his bride Charlene on their wedding day.

The paralympic javelin and discus thrower had not used his prosthetic legs for years because he finds them too painful - but he was determined to start his married life with a whirl around the dancefloor.

The couple spent spent eight months practising the three-minute route, which reduced their family and friends to tears, as Rupert Evelyn reports.

Read: We'll dance under the stars on our honeymoon

Wales

Video: Paralympian dances for first time at wedding

Warning: Video contains some flash photography.

Paralympic athlete Nathan Stephens danced for the first time in his life with his bride Charlene at their wedding reception on Saturday.

The couple had spent eight months secretly practising the three-minute routine, which reduced family and friends to tears as they watched.

The 25-year-old later admitted: "I was more nervous walking onto the dance floor than when I competed in the London Olympics."

Wales

'We'll dance under the stars on our honeymoon'

Nathan Stephens proposed to Charlene, a hospital customer services adviser, at the London Games last year after three years together.

The couple, who now live in Cardiff, married at the Celtic Manor Golf Resort in Newport on Saturday.

After dancing for the first time in his life with Charlene at their reception, Nathan said they now plan to 'dance under the stars' during their Sardinian honeymoon.

Charlene's been my rock, she tells me to stop whinging and get on with things.

I am so lucky she is my wife - dancing with her on our wedding day was one of the best moments of my life.

– Nathan Stephens

We practised our dance for hours and we carried it off on our big day. I am so proud of him.

We had it filmed and I will treasure the video forever.

– Charlene Stephens

Advertisement

Wales

First dance 'more nerve-wracking than London Games'

There was reportedly not a dry eye in the house as Paralympic athlete Nathan Stephens danced with new wife Charlene for the first time in his life at their wedding reception.

The 25-year-old said he was more nervous taking to the dancefloor than he was when he competed in the London 2012 Games.

I wanted to dance with Charlene more than anything - but not pushing myself along in my wheelchair.

I was adamant I was going to do it on my legs and if I set my mind to something I always get there.

We practised for eight months in our living room and no one had a clue.

Nathan said the three-minute routine was "all a bit new to me", but eventually felt confident enough to throw in a few twirls.

My older brother Andrew burst into tears. I think everyone was crying.

I have not worn my legs for years and most people at the reception had never seen me standing up out of my wheelchair before. We knew it would be a spectacular start to our night.

I was more nervous walking onto the dance floor than when I competed in the London Olympics. But we had rehearsed, so it went off like a dream.

– Nathan Stephens
Wales

Newlywed athlete Nathan Stephens' first ever dance

The couple secretly practised for eight months to enjoy their traditional first dance as newlyweds Credit: Wales News Service

Paralympic athlete Nathan Stephens stunned guests at his wedding reception by dancing for the first time in his life.

The 25-year-old from Bridgend, who lost both his legs under a train when he was nine, uses a wheelchair and has never danced.

But he and his bride Charlene, 26, who were determined to take to the floor as traditional newlyweds, practised in secret for eight months.

During their reception Nathan left the room to put on a pair of prosthetic legs, which had been hidden from guests.

He then pushed through the pain barrier to dance to their favourite song - 'I Won't Give Up' by Jason Mraz - in front of 130 emotional friends and family members.

Tributes paid to pioneering Paralympian Chris Hallam

Paralympian Chris Hallam MBE, one of the pioneers of disabled sport, has died.

The athlete won medals for swimming and wheelchair racing in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Paralympian Games. He also won the London Marathon twice , setting new course records.

Hallam, who was in his late 40s and had been ill for some time, died on Friday, Disability Sport Wales said.

Chris Hallam wins the 1987 London Marathon wheelchair race Credit: Reuters

His fellow Paralympian Jim Munkley said: "Chris will be remembered as a true legend of Paralympic and Welsh sport.

"Not only was he was true competitor in every sense of the word, but he was also a great character to be around and to have known.

"He was a larger-than-life character that you just wanted to be near to. 'Shades', as he was known, was a dear friend and will be sorely missed by everyone who ever knew him."

Read: Paralympic Games come home to Great Britain

Load more updates

Advertisement

Today's top stories