Gerard Masson”Let’s show that disabled athletes exist and perform well”



How can the Paralympic Games change society’s view of disability?

In our country, there remains a specific view of the world of disability which can be explained by our education and our philosophy. The Paralympics can change that. For example, China made an impressive transformation with the Beijing Games in 2008. Before they were held, people with disabilities were hidden, concealed. Their situation has since evolved in the right direction. Likewise, on the occasion of the 1992 Games, Barcelona undertook a huge transformation and became ultra-accessible for people with disabilities. This is a direct impact of the Paralympic Games on the daily lives of people with disabilities.

In fact, Paris 2024 emphasizes strong inclusion at all levels. Do you think they can mark a turning point?

The Paris 2024 candidacy highlights very strong ideas. An example: for the first time, a single French team will parade and a single logo will represent the two Games. This symbolic choice marks the desire to make things happen and make things sustainable. The difficulty is to believe that everything is immediately feasible for everyone. There is no miracle solution, barriers will always remain in place, but the key is to bring down as many as possible without being obsessed with the notion of “accessible to all”. What matters is what we do after the Games. The will of Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, and Tony Estanguet, the president of the Paris 2024 organizing committee, is to leave a lasting legacy on the inclusion of people with disabilities.

Can this progress in the world of work thanks to the Games?

Today, Paralympic athletes can be full-time professionals. The example of Marie-Amélie Le Fur (disabled athlete and eight-time medalist at the Paralympic Games, Editor’s note) is one of the most eloquent: she works at EDF and holds the position of President of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee.

However, many recruiters are still reluctant to hire people with disabilities. a ” Yes, but… ” often accompanies an employer’s response and suggests that people with a disability have difficulty integrating into a team. Thanks to the Games, positive and less stigmatizing images of the athletes are conveyed. They deconstruct certain a priori and encourage hiring.

This development depends on the visibility of the Paralympic Games, particularly in the media. Where are we ?

Initially, France Télévisions did not believe in it. Some journalists even talked about the circus games or the track to the stars. A click occurred during the 2012 Games in London, when the English television channel Channel 4 broadcast them in full. Today, the France TV group has taken the plunge, but it has been a long process.

Does this media coverage have an effect on registrations in adapted sport and / or amateur handisport?

The Games are undoubtedly inspiring but we do not notice a significant increase in the number of licensees. In France, there are a total of around 16 million licensed athletes, but very few competitors. In adapted sport or disabled sport, it is 100,000 licensees but as soon as a person with a disability joins a club, they move on to competition. The infrastructures are adapted for them but many constraints still hamper their integration into clubs, such as transport or timetables. However, if sport is a benefit for the able-bodied, it is a necessity for the disabled.

What is still left to change?

Lots of things but what is interesting is that sport plays a very positive role for integration. We shouldn’t just make it a star business, we have to show that disabled athletes exist and do great things. This is how we will manage to deconstruct the idea that only able-bodied people are destined for performance. I remember a very strong moment when a friend told me, speaking of young people in a rehabilitation center “ From the moment when Joël Jeannot (multi-medal Paralympic athlete) will become their model, instead of Zinédine Zidane, we will have won everything. “

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