One of the greatest legacies of the Paralympic Games will be an increased awareness of the abilities of disabled people not just in sport, but in all aspects of society, says one former Paralympian.

Most people have a superficial understanding of the Paralympic Games and the event is going to be an eye-opener, said Patrick Jarvis, a former Paralympic track-and-field runner and soon-to-be CEO of the Canadian Paralympic Foundation.

Jarvis will be joining Rick Hansen and Dr. Bruce McManus, a professor in the department of medicine at the University of B.C., in a discussion on the power of sport to contribute to social change at the Chan Centre on Wednesday.

“Too often we tend to judge people’s capabilities at a passing glance and we automatically judge what they can and can’t do,” said Jarvis.

“Sport is just one manifestation … of people’s abilities. That’s an easy link then to go, well if this individual can navigate a downhill course at 100 kilometres an hour, then the idea that they are capable of other things in society is an easy transition.”

Another important legacy, Jarvis said, will be increased sport programming geared toward people with disabilities and a surge in their involvement in recreational sport.

“The other thing is access,” he said. “All of a sudden people start thinking about removing barriers, whether that’s attitudinal and physical barriers.”

Jarvis said Vancouverites — like Calgarians in 1988 — weren’t prepared for how much the Games would impact their community and the country.

“I can say the same thing about the Paralympic Games,” he said. “Once (people) see and feel it, they’ll be blown away by what the Paralympic Games bring to the city.”

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