The 31st Workshop

October 25, 2018
Theme: The Paralympics Magnified by the Internet & Social Media: Inspiration, Change & Tokyo "The Best Games Ever"
Dr Jill Le Clair, Visiting Research Fellow, Coventry University, UK

Social media and sports are important elements to consider when focusing on issues of exclusivity within society. Social media in particular, whether its content is positive or negative, has the power to shape public opinion.
Social media tools such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have come to be used by a large number of people in recent years. Their strengths are visual appeal, lack of cost, and open access to everyone. However, there are some skeptics who believe that social media excludes many people, puts power in the hands of a small minority, and manipulates its users.
The decline of traditional media in recent years has created a situation where people have no choice but to rely on the information they get from social media. For disability sports, there is little coverage in traditional media overseas as well as on social media. When there is a story on disability sports, it will feature a "tragic hero / heroine overcoming adversity", and will often be told from the perspective of "how the disabled person relies on others".
It was against this backdrop that the 2012 London Paralympics' "Meet the Superhumans" campaign, which gained much attention, confronted people's prejudices about disabled people. While opinion was divided over the use of the term "Superhumans" and whether it was appropriate, the campaign was designed to raise awareness of the Paralympics, and focused on the outstanding abilities of Paralympians and sent out an affirmative message about disability.
Greater engagement of social media is expected in Japan for example in examining the discourses that surround disabled people, and in acting as a bridge between Paralympians and the broader disabled community.