Transcript of Equal Too Episode 6: The Decade Ahead

[Music: ‘Rising Phoenix’ with heavy bass beat. We can hear a male vocalist, georgetragic, rap the lyrics]

There’s a young boy 

Walking through obstacles 

Cut up from all the surgeries 

Prosthetic picture perjury

Telling me, I’m normal 

But normal, they never really made me seem

They always painted me

Discriminated but levitated …

[Music fades under speaking]

JACK THORNE: Disability is the forgotten diversity, the one everyone leaves out of speeches. Disability gets relegated out.

ANDREW PARSONS: We can make a difference. We can support the 1.2 billion persons with disability. Let’s say in a different way.

SARAH HIRSHLAND: Each individual has a voice in our world today that didn’t used to be there. Galvanising those voices in support of the Paralympic Movement, is, I think, what the story of 2028 is going to be about.

ANDREW PARSONS: Now you need to go the extra mile and include 15% of your population that has not been included.

MICHAEL JOHNSON: Since 2012 I think the Paralympics have made a huge shift in a positive direction in the consciousness of the public and sports media as well as sports fans. But it will stall if there isn’t a continued progress.

[Music comes back in with sung chorus (Performed by Toni Hickman)]

I’m a rising phoenix

I’ll rise above you 

I’m a rising phoenix

I’ll rise above you

[Music fades under narration]

SOPHIE (narration): In the first five episodes of this podcast series, we’ve learnt a lot about the world in which we live and how much work there is to do to achieve true equality for the disabled community. We have learnt about the change that the Paralympics has helped to bring about and discussed in broad terms where the world now stands on legislation, representation, inclusive design and employment. 

So in this final episode I want to focus on the future. Join me as I speak to leading figures from sport and sports television, business leaders and entrepreneurs and disabled activists about the potential in the decade ahead. 

I’m Sophie Morgan, this is Equal Too. Episode 6: The Decade Ahead.

[MUSIC starts: Chilled beat]

SOPHIE (narration): I want to start this episode, with an extract from a speech made by the multiple BAFTA and Tony Award winning writer, Jack Thorne, an English screenwriter and playwright, who developed cholinergic urticaria when he was 20 years old. And is perhaps best known for his recent adaptation of His Dark Materials and the West End hit Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. And he’s an Executive Producer on HTYT’s forthcoming TV series on the Tokyo Games. Jack no longer identifies as disabled but remains a passionate advocate for the community.

Last month, he gave the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival, and used the speech to tell the television industry some hard truths about the reality of living with a disability in the UK in recent months. 

JACK: The journalist Frances Ryan wrote this in one of her brilliant bursts of anger. “What happened to our most vulnerable during the pandemic was not some terrible tragedy. It was the all too predictable consequence of a system that decided the lives of Disabled and older people mattered less than those of the rest.” I think that no one can doubt those words are true. And that system was ours.

So all I’m hoping for is a chink – a chink of change – and once people realise how valuable Disabled people are – how consumable the stories – suddenly we’ll be washed through with them, and no longer will the inspirational crip be the model. And maybe,  hopefully, Disabled people will be treated with an iota more dignity. Disabled stories need to be told, and when they are told, they need to be told by Disabled people. It’s an obvious thing to say. It isn’t happening.

[MUSIC beat increases and out fades under clip]

SOPHIE (narration): Jack’s speech exposed the television industry for its treatment of Disabled people both on and off screen. The conclusions he draws are echoed throughout this series, that Disabled people have been failed. Not just in television, but in every area of society. 

JACK: Disability is the forgotten diversity, the one everyone leaves out of speeches. Gender, race, sexuality all rightly get discussed at length. Disability gets relegated out. In conversations about representation in action plans, a new era of planning disability is confined to the corner. It remains an afterthought.

[Clip: WeThe15 advert]

Piano music and a montage of voices:

Voice 1: You’re such an inspiration

Voice 2: So brave

Voice 3: You remind me to be happy

Voice 4: I love that you don’t let it get you down

Voice 5: Good for you!

[Fades out under narration]

SOPHIE (narration): How can we ensure that in a decade from now the situation will be very different, not just within television but across all sectors? Before the start of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics last month, the International Paralympic Committee launched a new campaign titled ‘Wethe15’.

[Clip: WeThe15 advert]

[Music: The Champ by The Mohawks and a montage of voices:]

Group of voices: People call us special

Voice 1: But there’s nothing special about us

Voice 2: We have more…

[Fades out under narration]

SOPHIE (narration): WeThe15 aims to transform the lives of the 15% of the global population with a disability by bringing together a coalition of international organisations from the worlds of sport, human rights, policy, communications, business, arts and entertainment. As explained by the IPC’s President, Andrew Parsons, the idea grew from a realisation that the IPC had the power to turn the Paralympics into much more than a sporting event. It could and should become a global movement.

[Clip: WeThe15 advert]

[Music: The Champ by The Mohawks]

Voice: That’s 1 billion people

[Fades under narration]

ANDREW PARSONS: I remember in 2017, I was not the IPC president, and I went to an event at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The COSP, which is the convention of the state parties who have signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability. And at that moment, I realise, look. We are not really connected to this world, you know, the Paralympic Games. So we are doing let’s say the Games are fantastic, they are relevant enough now. We can make a difference. We can support the 1.2 billion person with disability, let’s say, in a different way. That’s what prompted discussions at the IPC Board level. What can we do? And then the idea of a movement, a 10 year movement, a 10 year campaign. That was the idea that came to our mind and how we could then create and initiate, or this global movement by bringing other sport organisations for Disabled people, but also some international organisations from different sectors. Because that was our conclusion, every four years is not enough. So I’m really proud of having launched the Wethe15, but it’s only the beginning.

SOPHIE (narration): Having just spent two weeks in Tokyo, it is undeniable that the Tokyo Paralympics has been a success from a sporting perspective. But we will have to wait a bit longer to understand whether there has been a significant social impact in Japan. But we do know the power that the Games can have and has had on individuals involved. In Tokyo, we met a blind volunteer who has felt that power. Mr. Shigeru Kudo, a teacher at a Special Needs School for the Blind community tells us. 

SHIGERU KUDO: starts speaking in Japanese

[Fades under translation]

Translator (over): When you meet a visually impaired person for the first time, you don’t always know what to say or how to help them right away. But after a day’s work, you will see that the only difference is whether you can see or not, and other than that, you are no different. Perhaps the experience of seeing different kinds of Disabled people through the Paralympic Games has inspired them to do something for those like me who are close to them, to challenge themselves.

I believe that communicating with each other in this way will lead to a symbiotic society, where Disabled people and able-bodied people live together. So, I think the most important thing now is for people with disabilities to be active in society and to let the able-bodied know about us. I am sure that many Disabled people, not just visually impaired, volunteered at the Tokyo 2020 Games. I believe that if we tell the world about this, the trend towards a symbiotic society between able-bodied people and Disabled people will spread throughout the world at future Paralympic Games.

[Shigeru Kudo fades up and then under narration]

SOPHIE narration: In the meantime, let us look ahead, Paris 2024 is less than 3 years away. Andrew Parsons is particularly keen to ensure that the Paralympics in France will not just be remembered for the sport but for the change that it inspires.

ANDREW: We are going to a country that is all about, you know: Liberté, égalité, fraternité. So égalité, equality, is something absolutely fundamental to us. And this is what we want to tell the French population. Look, it’s in the foundation of your Republic. But now you need to go the extra mile and include 15 percent of your population that is not included.

[Clip: Paris 2024 ]

SOPHIE (narration): Following Paris 2024, the Winter games will head to Milan-Cortina in 2026 where Bebe Vio, the Italian wheelchair fencing star of the Rising Phoenix film and one of the world’s most well known Paralympians, who just won a gold medal in Tokyo, hopes that the hosting of the Games will also have a major impact on society and culture in her home country, but with particular emphasis on the younger generations.

BEBE: If you watch all the plan, if you read that old plan that you’re doing for 2026, you can see that most of the projects are going to be based on the Paralympic Movement and they’re going to be based on the young generation. So, Milano Cortina 2026 is going to be like a, I think is going to be something really great for us, because there are so many countries, like so many cities in Italy, which are like perfect for people with disability. I can say like Milan. I can say like Cortina is growing up much better this year. And also we are doing so many project with the city of Cortina because they want to be much more without a barrier. Much more disability friendly in some way. And so they really believe in the fact that the Paralympic Games can really change the mentality of much of all the people.

SOPHIE (narration): Talking to Andrew and Bebe you get the sense of a real purpose, energy and vision for the decade ahead which goes far beyond a two week sporting event. And just like any other movement it needs investment and support. Major brands are increasingly recognising the value of the Paralympics and want to align their own ambitions with those of the Movement and the athletes and help them achieve their goals. One of the first businesses that really understood this, as mentioned in episode one, was Sainsbury’s, a leading supermarket chain in the UK. Their CEO at the time was Justin King and we spoke to him about why Sainsbury’s got involved with London 2012.

JUSTIN: The decision for the Sainsbury’s Board was not a financially justified decision, that’s not why we took the decision. It was not a presentation that said spend this money and this will be the payback. It was a decision that said this is an agenda which is really meaningful for our customers and colleagues with some big decisions we need to make as a business, whether or not we get involved with the Paralympics. But if we are involved, it will raise the bar, will force us to be bigger thinking and ultimately will get a better outcome as a result.

I think the key learning for me, and it really was brought home by the involvement with the Paralympics, is that talent is multifaceted. You know, we know that today as we sit here in 2021, there are other aspects of diversity which are perhaps grabbing the bigger headlines. But behind that, there’s a core truth which is, diverse talent leads to better business outcomes. And so for me, right up there at the top of the learnings is to retain as broad a perspective as possible on the shape that talent takes, the life journey that that talent has had, the particular experiences that they bring to your business. And that requires not just an open mind, but it does require most organisations to massively revisit the way that they bring people into the business, the way that they train them, the way that they select for investment in training and ultimately, hopefully promotions and development. 

SOPHIE (narration): We also spoke with Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee. She is convinced that in the next decade the commercial opportunities for the Paralympics are huge.

We are already seeing a shift in the commercial interest in the Paralympics in our country. The notion of galvanising the corporate community in support of these athletes is starting to happen in a tangible way in the United States. So I don’t know that it will wait until 2028. I think we’re going to be there well before that and we’re going to see real energy. But I think what we see from the commercial community, both on the broadcasting side, also on the sort of corporate sponsors side, I think is going to be profound. But what to me will be the most profound and I think will be very in place and the structure will be there in 2028 is a world in which the consumer sentiment comes shining through in, in ways we can’t possibly imagine, right? Each individual has a voice in our world today that didn’t used to be there. Galvanising those voices in support of the Paralympic Movement is, I think, what the story of 2028 is going to be about.

SOPHIE (narration): What excites Sarah about these commercial opportunities is the muscularity they bring to the Games to create what she believes will be the biggest social impact in the history of the Paralympics. Telling me she is convinced there is a new intersection between sport and culture that LA will – as the entertainment centre of the world – grasp and exploit in ways that we have never seen before.

SARAH: The Paralympic Games in Los Angeles, is an opportunity to change our nation and potentially, you know, even beyond our borders. You know, the opportunity we have as building from Tokyo building into on the winter side, through the Beijing Games, through the Paris games, through the Milan games, each moment is an opportunity to expose a new, a new set of faces to what this is all about. And if we do our jobs right, we will expose some of those individuals who are driving pop culture conversations. That could be film coming out of Hollywood. It could be music. And particularly coming out of the United States, there is always a huge opportunity to influence sort of pop culture and what is being talked about and what is being accepted. 

SOPHIE (narration): Michael Johnson, four-time Olympic champion, also recognises the potential of the LA Games in 2028 to present an unprecedented opportunity for commercial sponsors.

MICHAEL: Since 2012, I think the Paralympics have made a huge shift in a positive direction in the consciousness of the public and sports media as well as sports fans. But it will stall if there isn’t continued progress. 2028 LA, which I sit on the Board of, I think that there is a tremendous opportunity to really normalise the Games but I don’t want to minimize the progress that’s been made in seeing Paralympic athletes as athletes and seeing Paralympic sport as sport, as opposed to these are people that we should support and a bit of sympathy which those athletes do not want. The Paralympic sport movement doesn’t want sympathy, wants to be recognised as true, compelling sport and amazing athletes. And I think that one thing that we’re good at here in America is finding ways to monetise and create business out of opportunities. And I think that, that certainly, you know, the profit motive, the branding and marketing motive around Paralympics could certainly, you know, take off with the ‘28 games here in L.A.

SOPHIE (narration): If Michael’s right, the LA Games could indeed raise the bar higher than ever before. The Organisers will be buoyed by the news late last week that the NBC’s coverage of the Paralympics in Tokyo this summer saw higher viewing figures in the US than ever before. And what the US has, is perhaps the missing ingredient for the ultimate recipe for success –  a climate of deep unrest and a longing for social justice in the wake of some of the most prolific and galvanising examples of discrimination in recent times.

MICHAEL: There’s already a huge movement here in this country and has been for some time around equality for everyone and marginalised groups. And I think that there’s a renewed movement towards equality for everyone over the last year and a half or so, not least of which is due to the George Floyd murder and what’s been happening around equality for African-Americans, black people in this country. But I think that, you know, that this pandemic also has sort of highlighted the inequality amongst certain groups and it’s sort of made people feel that we need to be allies of any group that has been marginalised. And, of course, people with disabilities are certainly a part of that. So I think that there is an opportunity there, certainly that includes the disabled community and the Paralympics has always been, certainly in recent times, has been a leader in and championing the rights of people with disability. And I don’t see any reason why that won’t continue and why this upcoming Games could not be an amazing opportunity to continue to champion that and continue that momentum. But I think a lot of work can be done between now and then as well.

SOPHIE (narration):  Another leading voice in the Paralympic Movement is the British sports broadcaster, Clare Balding. She has worked on every Summer Paralympics as a presenter since Sydney 2000. She echoes Michael’s optimism about the LA Games. But Clare has some big and important questions. 

CLARE: Will America finally wake up to the power of the Paralympic Games? Will they show it live? Will they show it for 10, 12 hours a day? Will they end up knowing the names of more than two or three competitors? Will they, I hope, will they tell the stories of athletes from other parts of the world where finance might not be as good? And and will they understand what it means and what it can mean? And I really hope that happens.

SOPHIE (narration): To finish this podcast, Sinéad and I sat down to discuss what we have learnt over the past few weeks and what this can mean for the future. 

SINÉAD: Sophie, I’m conscious that for six episodes you have been the host of this wonderful podcast, whilst I have got to be, not necessarily in the background but definitely not sitting in front of the microphone as much as you were. So it’s with great pleasure and privilege that we get to end this series, this edition of the series together.

SOPHIE: Agreed

SINÉAD: I guess my question for you is, what did you take from these six episodes? Either as a presenter, as a Disabled person, as an advocate, what did you learn?

SOPHIE: I think it’s become very, I s’pose, in many ways I knew what to expect in the sense that I had a healthy dose of cynicism, I think, about the way in which we communicate or we tell the stories around disability. And that…sometimes those stories get taken out of our hands and told in the wrong ways. So I’ve always felt a little bit apprehensive when it comes to telling stories around disability, who gets to tell them. But because I knew that we were taking control of this, and when I say we, I say Disabled people and I say you and me and the team that we worked with, who got a real awareness and sensitivity to that exact cynicism. That exact concern that we need to speak with authority but also with empathy around disability. And an understanding where we don’t know what we don’t know. 

So I think we leant into this whole podcast with curiosity, in a way that I came away feeling some of my questions got answered. But I knew that there would be some questions that remained unanswered. But what’s hopeful, is I think, that those questions that remain unanswered are not going to be forgotten about. I feel that as a community, we are coming together for the first time, or perhaps for the first time in my lifetime. I’ve seen people coming together from around the world, perhaps using the Paralympics as a platform. But really just, I feel, there’s a galvanised effort from the disabled community to come together and start pushing our agenda forward. And using each other, and leveraging what we can in our world to give us the platforms that we need to speak out about where things are going right, and where things aren’t. 

And how about you? What about you?

SINÉAD: I think it’s been so brilliant to have six different threads of conversation under the umbrella of disability.  And when we began this podcast, we had lots of conversations back and forth about who the audience was. Was it non-Disabled people? Was it Disabled people? Was it allies? Was it athletes? And one of the things that we have been really considerate around, is making sure that across these six episodes that we have appealed to, listened to, amplified, and bring questions to each of those audiences. And that was far more challenging than I think both you and I had thought about at the very beginning…

SOPHIE: [laughs quietly in the background]

SINÉAD: and it required such nuance and delicacy in the script writing, the interviewing, the editing, supported by a brilliant team. But I think one of the things that I’m really proud of, in terms of my learnings of these six episodes, is the blueprint that we have put together in terms of accessibility. Making sure that this podcast has transcripts. Making sure that they’re British Sign Language interpreted. Editions of each of the episodes. Making sure we’re thinking about accessibility through digital communications. But also not just looking at representation as the only definition of success. And making sure that we are viewing representation through an intersectional lens. Across geographic boundaries. Across different industries. And really importantly across disability. Because even when using the Paralympics as a platform to instigate these conversations, we can be focused on physically disabled people. And I realise the irony of you and I discussing this, both having physical disabilities. But there’s that phrase, you know, ‘nothing about us without us’ and we need to be holistic in our focus in these conversations around disability because we can only speak for ourselves.

SOPHIE: I think the other thing that I didn’t actually expect to be able to answer, which we, the question that we pose at the beginning of this which was – where does the story go next? And for me, like you say, because we’ve got these, we’ve had these different themes and in many ways when it comes to disability there are so many areas where we could focus our attention and really push the agenda forward. Is that representation? Is it just the laws that protect us? These areas all need work, but they don’t work in isolation, as you say, we need a holistic approach. 

But I do feel, I have concluded, and I think in terms for Rising Phoenix about their agenda questioning where we go next with this story. I think, that there was something that we wrote in the script, which was essentially – we need to be in the room where power is brokered. We need to be making decisions. And I say we, Disabled people, need to be, the ‘nothing about us without us’ we are aware of it. Many Disabled people are aware of that phrase, even if it’s not even explicitly, implicitly we all know that. But I feel that for the next part of this journey, to take that giant leap forward not slowly incremental changes, if we want that giant leap that’s where we need to see change. We need to see Disabled people in decision making roles. We need to see Diasbled people across the board. Because then we don’t need to present our argument for why we need to be represented. Or why we should be in the room. Or why or why or why…We don’t need to answer that question, somebody will get it already. And so it’s an easier, the paradigm shift will happen organically. And so I feel, in the answer to the question where the story goes next, for me employment is at the heart of this. And again I know that that’s nuanced and we’re gonna have to look at soooo many different factors that are gonna need to be considered for that to be achieved and for employment to happen. 

You know, but I do feel that that’s where, and what’s exciting about it is it harks back to in a way what the Games were originally for. The Games were used, they were created by a man whose vision was to reintegrate Disabled people, people with spinal cord injury into the workforce. That was the agenda and that’s what the Games were originally about. We might have lost track of that, the Games has become about sport, but if we can use that to then influence that other question around employment I think that would be, that would serve us hugely. And that’s where I feel the combined effort of so many activists and campaigners and Disabled people all around the world, and disabled athletes, I think that’s where our focus needs to be next. What about you?

SINÉAD: I was really impressed with the level of access that we got. And I mean that in the greatest sense of thinking about accessibility and that was fully supported by the brilliant team that we’ve been working with over the past several months. But I think one of the great challenges to the success of this work is that everybody is working within a silo. Within their own charity. Within their own advocacy. Within their own organisation. And rarely are there spaces or rooms created wherein that expertise can be shared. 

I remember being on the interview with Sam Latif from Procter & Gamble and her talking me through how they brought braille onto the shampoo bottles in a very methodological way, so that’s actually instructive for other companies.

Or speaking to Hank from Ernst & Young talking about how do we meaningfully and intentionally employ Disabled people. 

SOPHIE: Uh-huh

SINÉAD: But then also speaking to the athletes themselves and having a very transparent conversation about what it means to actually become a Paralympic athlete. What are the sacrifices, what are the challenges, what’s the routine and what’s the cost? Because I think particularly in a moment of celebration we often gloss over the hardest parts. And being able to, across six episodes, have this library of resources and toolkits for individuals and organisations to get started..


SINÉAD: Or to accelerate their journey, I hope that’s the legacy that we leave behind with this podcast. 

SOPHIE: Absolutely! And you know, just listening to you speak there I’m just thinking about what was also quite interesting was as we launched this podcast and as we launched this conversation, as we started to curate those voices and bring these people in. We weren’t alone in doing this right. There was so many other people that we found were also, you know, WeThe15 was just getting going. We’re seeing other groups, and other, we aren’t alone. Essentially is what I felt. That this isn’t, what we’ve done might be pioneering in many respects but it’s not in isolation. And other people are curating these conversations and holding them in different spaces and I think that’s really encouraging. 

And I would echo your point that we do work in silos but I feel that there’s an awareness that, you know, we, maybe there’s not such an awareness that we need to come together but it’s becoming less and less ummm avoidable. It’s almost like we, we’re all as planets, little planets in our own little world, we’re gonna collide you know. People like you and I, Sinéad, who’ve worked in different areas and different industries. You know, me in broadcasting and you in your areas, we’ve come together because we’ve got shared values and I think that’s so encouraging. 

So I come away from this conversation, I come away from what we’ve just done feeling incredibly motivated. Perhaps more than I ever have about where we can get to. And I hope, mediums like what we’ve created. This is the other thing I find interesting. What are the tools that we have as Disabled people to tell stories? What are the tools that we’ve got to shift the dial, to change, you know, the perceptions? And I’d never stepped into the world of podcasts before and I feel that there’s something there that’s really powerful in itself. As I’m moving away from television and into this space, I think there’s great opportunity there too. So, I don’t know, I feel like doors are opening ummm… yeah.

SINÉAD: For me, I’m leaving these six episodes with renewed determination. As you were sharing earlier, one of the great things that we were able to weave in, in this journey of six episodes was the different initiatives. Moments and movements that are happening. We had WeThe15, we also had Jack Thorne’s brilliant lecture…


SINÉAD: Off the Edinburgh TV and Film Festival. But I think what I am leaving with in terms of that determination. Is that all of these things are wonderful. That they are pillars to something like the Paralympics or award season. But Disabled people exist 365 days a year. As do their challenges to access, employment, representation, rights and this cannot be a conversation that happens in one moment. That this has to be the rhythm and the soundtrack to policy making, decision making, creative opportunities for ever more and we are not but a spoke in the wheel in what constant progress has to look like.

SOPHIE: And I think something else that came up, and I, cause I hear that tenacity and energy in your voice and I know I have it too.  And that feeling of, you know, just cause the Games are over, we need to take that moment into the movement. And we need to keep this going and the wheel keeps needing to turn but I feel very strongly. And I heard it echoed a lot in some of the conversations that we had, Sinéad, over the last few weeks for the podcast. Is there’s a… burnout that I feel very much can happen to disabled voices, disabled people, disabled activists. I feel that people, that sort of activist, you know, fatigue is real and Disabled people have taken so much control and are trying to take so much control but we cannot do it in isolation. We cannot do it just in our community. We talk about allyship. But I think perhaps for more than any other group, a marginalised group, I feel allyship really really really is the only way – not the only way – it is one of the most important tools for us to be able to find and depend upon moving forward. 

We can’t just keep trying to, and again it speaks back to that thing of, you know, we need to be in the room. But I do feel that’s what the Paralympics does, it does bring in the non-disabled community and it opens eyes. But I think we both have our concerns about how those, how that, you know story is told and how non-disabled people get brought in and what Disabled people do as entertainment for that group. How that can be good and bad but I do, I want this conversation that we’re having to not just sit in our community. We said that all the way through the podcast. This is everybody’s story and something Jack Thorne did say which I think is so powerful is that even if you aren’t disabled now, everybody’s pre-disabled. It’s a reality we are all going to face and so, this is an important global conversation. It’s a universal conversation and that’s something that I really want us to start to hear, start to feel but it’s, you know, everybody’s invested. 

SINÉAD: My only concern about that notion of ‘we will all be disabled’. Until the social and cultural understanding of disability improves, that sits within a deprivation level.

SOPHIE: It does, it does

SINÉAD: It feels like a threat rather than an opportunity.

SOPHIE: It does and people get scared, yeah. Exactly.

SINÉAD: And people say ‘what do you mean I’m going to be disabled?’ Which is why..


SINÉAD: Going back to what you were saying in terms of advocacy burnout. One of the things that I’m most proud of in this series is we did not ask anybody to expose the most traumatic parts of their life in order to be valid guests on our episodes. They came to us and we amplified their voices and their perspectives…


SINÉAD: Because of the expertise and the lived experience that they have. Sometimes those two things are different. Sometimes, and most times, one informs the other. 

SOPHIE: Mm-hm 

SINÉAD: And so often when Disabled people are given the space to tell the story it is through a non-disabled gaze that further others them. That allows us to ‘awww’ in all that they’ve overcome. 

SOPHIE: Mm-hm 

SINÉAD: This was informed, entertaining, factual but most importantly, solution-driven. Which invites an audience that has resources to say, ‘hey we can partner and support you to make the world a better place for everyone.’

SOPHIE: Uh-hm. And again another, I mean without patting ourselves on the back too much although I am, I think the powerful part of what we did here and deliberately so was to say, ‘get involved in this conversation. We don’t have all the answers, we’re looking for solutions, these are some that exist already.’ But let’s use this as a start. Let’s use this as a beginning of a longer conversation, a wider conversation. And that I think is paramount now. It speaks to your point of this. We don’t want to just exist in areas that, you know, sort of silos of expertise where we work in our one agenda. It invites people to come in and for us to openly and transparently recognise that in order for all of us to succeed we all have to work together.  

Ummm and I think that’s really important with the podcast is that we skimmed, we only touched the surface of some of these subjects. And so the hashtag, I want to live on. I want the #equaltoo to trigger further debate, further conversation. Even criticism, you know, we don’t have all the answers. We also were so excited to bring in so many different voices but we know there’s more out there. And other experts in different countries where we didn’t get that reach. And so if anything, if we can leave this legacy behind from this particular project, is that awareness that we, we’re all in this together and we’re looking for answers. And we’re looking to better the lives of absolutely everybody with a disability and that’s our hope. So I hope the #equaltoo creates a life of its own.

SINÉAD: And also that other podcasts come into the market.


SINÉAD: I want to listen to other Disabled people being producers, scriptwriters, hosts picking up where we have left off. As you said, excavating the questions we didn’t get to and the solutions we couldn’t build, and the voices that are missing and how their stories have changed in time. I want to listen to that because there can’t just be one. And there never should be. So true success is making sure that there is a cacophony of podcasts and episodes led by those minority voices and marginalised communities. And I can’t wait to ‘subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.’

SOPHIE: [laughter] ‘wherever you get your podcasts.’ I’ll tell you what as well, looking ahead at what we’ve got coming up ummm, and I do, again you know, I recognise the limitations of the Paralympics. But knowing what we’ve got coming up, and knowing where these conversations can go. And knowing what we’ve just done here by using the Tokyo Games as our platform to trigger some of these conversations. I hope that we start to see, just like you say, conversations cropping up around the Paris games around the LA Games, that’s a while away, but you know these are, again it’s the start of something. And I think that’s, it can’t be forgotten and we sort of shift back into, I don’t want us to get lazy I guess is what I’m trying to say. I don’t want us to get lazy with the representation of disability sport because it’s more than that. The Paralympics have the potential to do more than that, and that’s exactly what we’ve just seen and I hope we do more. 

SINÉAD: Sophie, you are talking there about the upcoming Games in Paris and Los Angeles. And I think we’ve talked a lot, today, about this podcast being a vehicle for awareness, education and advocacy. But I think what’s next is action. And when you and I both signed up to be part of this, what intrigued me most was that it was also an opportunity to listen, to build ideas, to build a new roadmap for the conversation, the interviews that need to happen and the next steps of the journey of Rising Phoenix. Which is a brilliant documentary on Netflix that charts the success, and the challenges, of Paralympics and Paralympic athletes. And I think what has been so wonderful is again going back to this notion of ‘nothing about us without us’. How do we create a decade of content about disabled people if we don’t embed their ideas, innovations, concerns and questions as part of it. 

So now that we’ve done this trend of listening, there will be more listening of course, we can actually begin to embed the brilliant perspectives that were part of these six episodes and make it really meaningful and also actionable. 

SOPHIE: I don’t have anything to add. I think, yeah, I think accountability matters to me as well at the moment. I feel, moving forward, if we are going to be able to achieve what we talked about so often in this podcast. So many of the goals that we all share – accurate representation, stronger leadership, increased visibility, all of these things that we’re striving for. Inclusive design I mean the list goes on. I think it really harks back to, we need to be making those decisions for ourselves. We need to be given those opportunities to create those meaningful, kind of, you know, roles and I think unless we find a way to hold people to account when we aren’t getting it right we will also struggle.

So I think it’s really a bit of a call to action now as well to call out and to hold accountable where we get it wrong and to also celebrate and point to best practice when we see it. 

[Fade in music: ‘Rising Phoenix’ main theme]

SINÉAD: This work will never be done because people are ever changing as is the world so buckle up, we’re in for a long and brilliant ride. 

SOPHIE: There we go.

Throughout these podcasts we’ve heard from so many people about their experiences as a Disabled person or about ways in which non-disabled people have seen the need for real change. It’s been a privilege to listen to their stories, hear their experiences and witness their ambitions. And whilst I am filled with hope that things can and will improve over the next decade, you will I hope forgive a certain dose of healthy scepticism. But I think we should leave the last quote to someone who can make a considerable difference to what the Paralympic Movement will achieve in the decade ahead, the IPC’s President Andrew Parsons.

ANDREW: So really proud, really proud but it’s only the beginning and I want to feel even prouder at the end of this 10 year journey. We will look back and if we could really say, look, we made a difference. We have contributed to create more inclusive societies. We know that it’s impossible to tackle the whole world with one initiative or series of initiatives, cause of different levels of development of nations, cultures, you know different parts of the world, they react differently. So we want to make, that’s why we keep saying societies, because we need to understand a national context and really work in every one of the two hundred plus nations around the world.

SOPHIE (narration): These podcasts have been made possible because of the support of Procter & Gamble. P&G share our ambition to create a more equal world. A world where everyone can have equal access and the opportunity to thrive. We are very grateful for their partnership in making these conversations a reality.

61% of people with a direct involvement in the production of the podcast, including guests, identify as Disabled.

This podcast was created by Greg Nugent, co-founder of Harder Than You Think. I’m Sophie Morgan, your host and Executive Producer. Fellow Executive Producers are Sinéad Burke, Greg Nugent, Barnaby Spurrier, Laura Ims, Marc Pritchard, and Kimberly Doebereiner.

Thank you to the IPC and Channel 4 for their support, and use of archive material. 

Thanks to our podcast production partner Stripped Media, and also to Seneca Women for their assistance with distributing this show. 

If you want to follow the Equal Too story, and join the conversation #EqualToo, go to our website where you will also find the transcript and video versions of the podcast, along with subtitles and a BSL-signed version in the coming days.

The ​​HTYT Team:

Calum Campbell – Lead Researcher

Jemma Thompson – Managing Director

Charlotte Todman – Campaigns and Communications

Kirsty Asher – Researcher

Kimberley Smith – Production Coordinator

Camille Fung – Researcher


Stripped Media Team:

Tom Whalley – Lead Editor 

Anita Elash – Editor

Kobi Omenaka – Series Producer

Sean Towgood – Producer

Francesca Turauskis – Producer

Carrie Morrison – Producer

Meg Fozzard – Production Coordinator


Additional script writing by Josh Williams and Alice Elliot from The Draft

BSL translation and BSL signer Rinkoo Barpaga

Subtitling and video editing by Beacon Films

And finally our artwork by North Design

[MUSIC intensifies and ends]