When writing makes a difference: Royal Mail & the Paralympians

Royal cipher used as part of the Royal Mail id...


Not mine, necessarily, but I’m very pleased to have been there with the Facebook commenters, the tweeters, the social commentators who raised a storm and blew away discriminatory thinking.


Last week, I was passed a tweet that suggested our Paralympic gold medallists would not be honoured with individual Royal Mail stamps as the Olympians had been. I re-tweeted, inviting Royal Mail to tell us this wasn’t true. After all, who could think that was reasonable? Who would put forward a proposal that acknowledged the outstanding efforts of one group and sidelined those of another? But it was true – Royal Mail, in a massive gesture of celebration, had been delivering individualised sets of stamps to Olympic gold medallists within 24 hours of their win, but it was proposing to offer the Paralympians group photos only. Why? Because they would win too many! The thinking behind that had to have been either extraordinarily discriminatory, or a simple matter of appalling after-thought. The aftermath was astonishing. Not least because the British Paralympic Association appeared to have gone along with the decision. One commentator spoke of his twitter stream hitting 10,000 during the evening of his first tweet, and about the discussions he had subsequently with Royal Mail. I went to Royal Mail’s Facebook page and began a discussion there but the response, albeit polite and engaged, was not promising. I wrote my own piece, summarising the arguments I had offered there, and I fielded re-tweets of my own, which gathered additional momentum. Then it went quiet as so often happens in social media. It was over, there were economic arguments, practical arguments, all sorts of arguments, it seemed, other than just ones.


But then yesterday came extraordinary news – Royal Mail had changed its mind! The Paralympic gold medallists would be honoured with individual stamps in the same way as the Olympians have been, and while their announcement makes rather more of their being the first to do this, and much less (none actually) of the hoo-hah that is likely to have prompted them, we have a victory. My hope is that the blinkered thinkers at the top of Royal Mail that appeared to have forgotten the Paralympians will have learned something important about equality. It means ‘equal’, that’s what it means, and all that writing made that clear as a clear round over an Olympic five bar gate.


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