Hidden camera shows how athletes with a disability are stared at in Brussels
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Hidden camera shows how athletes with a disability are stared at in Brussels

Paralympic Team Belgium filmed four of its athletes with hidden cameras as they went about their days in the Belgian capital, revealing the amount of stares they’re subjected to from strangers on the street who often gawk at their disabilities.

The video aims to raise awareness about the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo that begin on 24 August.

“On the streets, disabled people get stared at all the time,” the video says. “But when they perform in sports, still not enough people watch.”

The athletes that participated in the video were Gitte Haenen (para athletics medalist, former paratriathlete), Klison Mapreni (visually impaired goalball medalist), Ewoud Vormant (World Champion paracyclist, Belgian record setter) and Joachim Gérard (paralympic medalist, wheelchair tennis, former Singles World Number One).

“The Belgian Paralympians are in full preparation for the Paralympic Games that will take place in Tokyo this summer,” said Paralympic Team Belgium.

“They train every day to go medal hunting in Japan in disciplines such as cycling, table tennis, boccia or goalball. Unfortunately, people with disabilities such as these are still too often stared at because of their limitations, while the image of the talented go-getters they are is not yet sufficiently well known.”

The campaign, titled “Now is the time to stare,” calls on people with disabilities to look beyond the limitations they live with, and reminds the public that the looks of condemnation or pity they give such people – paralympic athletes or not – are unwelcome and must change.

“Our Paralympians are all top athletes who live for their sport,” said Anne d’Ieteren, President of the Belgian Paralympic Committee. “They deserve a lot of respect and recognition for this, but unfortunately they are sometimes looked down upon. This is a regrettable social issue that other people with disabilities are also confronted with on a daily basis. We want to change that with this action.”

Helen Lyons
The Brussels Times