Although some people may see these athletes as depressing reminders of limitation, Knowles views them as pushing human possibilities. "People are psyched over athletes," he said. "People aren't going to these events because they feel sorry for the athletes. These are real games with real fans waving flags."
Since 1988, the Olympics and Paralympics have been hosted in the same city, with residents getting about two weeks between events to take a breath.
Knowles imagines a day when the Olympics and the Paralympics will become one event. It may happen with the advancement of prosthetics.
This year, for example, the Olympics included the sprinter Oscar Pistorius of South Africa running with prosthetic limbs and a blind South Korean archer, I'm Dong-Hyun, hitting the middle of his target.
But much work is needed before a merger could occur.
Rachel Latham, a former Paralympian turned reporter for England's Channel 4, told PBS.org: "I don't think the public has ever been given the chance to care about the Paralympics. If you aren't given the chance to see something and understand it, you probably won't care."
By opening day on Aug. 29, the Paralympics had already surpassed expected attendance and sold nearly all of its 2.5 million tickets.
Despite reported highs in ratings, interest and ticket sales, the United States lags behind in TV coverage. NBC Universal will air only about five hours of the Games in 60-minute clip shows, including a show Sept. 11, two days after it has ended, followed by a 90-minute wrap-up Sept. 16.
By comparison, the United Kingdom's Channel 4 will televise 150 hours of the games and close to 100 hours online. ABC Australia plans to air 100 hours, while CCTV China and Redo Globo Brazil are covering the games in prime time.
An NBC spokeswoman defended the overall coverage - on YouTube, NBC, NBC Sports Network, and Universal Sports - saying that it was the most ever for the Paralympics in the United States.
The Paralympics was begun in 1948 by London physician Ludwig Guttmann as a way for wounded WWII veterans to rehabilitate. "Now they're on a stage with full-time athletes," said Drexel's Knowles.
One participant is Philadelphia-area native Amanda McGrory, a successful wheelchair athlete who has won marathons in New York and London as well as gold medals in the Beijing Paralympics. She placed seventh this week in the women's 800-meter track final.
She and her competitors still have a ways to go for full acceptance. Before the Paralympics began, the symbolic Olympic rings were taken down, a gesture that degraded the hard work of Paralympians, Knowles maintains.
Indeed, its supporters say the Paralympics reflect the Games' original premise of showcasing exceptional warriors by showing how they adapt. That may be why UK's Channel 4 is running a campaign stating, "Forget everything you thought you knew about strength. Forget everything you thought you knew about humans. It's time to do battle. Meet the Superhumans."
Gillian Francella can be reached at email@example.com.