Nicole Barton writes about her family's trip to the Paralympic Games:
"All the teachers say we have to be asleep by 9pm" chorused my two primary school aged daughters earnestly, two days into the new term. Oh no, I thought, if they are in bed before 1.30am we'll be doing well, as we were heading to the Paralympics to watch the athletics. I wanted my daughters to go and be inspired by disabled athletes and by female ones in particular. Strong, physical, dedicated women who achieve goals through hard work and sacrifice.
As relative newbies to the planet, my daughters are totally puzzled by inequality. Their questions include, 'Why's there never been a lady President of the United States?', 'Why weren't those Saudi women in the headscarves allowed in the Olympics before?', 'Why do princes become Kings ahead of princesses becoming Queens?' It's not always easy to answer these questions, so the Paralympics seemed the perfect opportunity to witness women achieving brilliance, sometimes despite the odds. I am prepared to risk the wrath of the teachers for this chance to broaden their horizons.
Then we got there. All the lessons faded into the background, replaced by sheer joy at the amazing performance of Paralympic athletes, male and female. We screamed ourselves hoarse for Jonnie Peacock, David Weir, Hannah Cockcroft and countless others. These superhumans left my kids wide eyed with wonder and bursting with enthusiasm. They signed up to the early morning Triathlon Club the very next day.
In a world where the news is so unrelentingly depressing this summer's Olympics and Paralympics have been so infectious because they have been showcasing common values held in esteem across the globe: giving it your best, achievement borne of hard work and dedication, dignity in defeat, teamwork, sacrifice and excellence.
They also achieved the unthinkable - they almost completely broke down the barriers between mainstream and disabled sport. My kids were glued to the Olympics, then the Paralympics, and made no distinction between the two. They were inspired by Jessica Ennis then Sarah Storey. As a family we watched an amazing night of athletics thinking not, "look what they can do despite their disabilities", but simply, "look what they can do!"
So what difference will this new spirit of positivity and focus on ability bring about? Firstly, it may help sweep away some of the negativity around disabled people caused by the current welfare reforms. We have disabled heroes not supposed benefits cheats on the front pages of newspapers.
Secondly, if we invest, it will lead to a surge in participation of sport for everyone, whether disabled or not. We all benefit from better sports facilities (it seems no coincidence that 35% of Olympian gold medallists were privately educated) but disabled people perhaps more than most, as they are more likely to be affected by poverty and lack of opportunity. Committing the right resources will hopefully maintain this strange phenomenon that sees the spirits of the entire globe lifted by the simple act of running round a track or chasing a ball. Weird really but wonderful. The human race indeed.
By Nicole Barton, Papworth Trust volunteer