As the first 60 members of the 300-strong ParalympicsGB team arrived in the athletes’ village this week, and with the opening ceremony just six days away, the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG appears to have made no effort to resolve the concerns of disabled parents planning to attend the games.
Disabled actor Melissa Chapin has been trying to work with LOCOG for the last fortnight to resolve concerns that she and other wheelchair-using parents with Paralympic tickets will not be able to sit with their children and friends.
She has been asking LOCOG to take steps to ensure that more wheelchair-users who bring their children with them to venues such as the ExCeL centre – which has mostly unreserved seating – will be able to sit next to them.
She has tickets for two days of competition at Excel – which is hosting sports such as sitting volleyball, powerlifting, table-tennis and boccia – on September 2 and 3.
On the first day, she will be joined by a wheelchair-using British Falklands veteran, her seven-year-old twins, and two personal assistants, but there is no guarantee that they are going to be able to sit together.
She has already been contacted on Twitter by 10 other disabled parents with similar concerns.
She believes LOCOG will not be able to rely on its volunteers – or “games makers” – to resolve problems on the day, because they will be swamped by disabled parents with similar seating needs.
Chapin has also pointed out that LOCOG stopped wheelchair-users from buying tickets through its website last November, forcing them instead to use an 0844 telephone number, as reported by Disability News Service.
She said this had made it impossible for disabled parents to buy tickets for themselves and their children.
LOCOG has so far refused to work with Chapin to find a solution to her concerns, or to comment on the issue to Disability News Service.
Chapin said: “It is becoming a human rights issue. It is almost impossible to make me crack, but the cracks are starting to show. The twins couldn’t believe this was happening to their mum in this day and age.”
She believes LOCOG is breaching the Equality Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Meanwhile, LOCOG has struggled to explain why it chose four of the most inaccessible spots in the United Kingdom to light its four Paralympic flames.
The flames were lit by groups of scouts at the summits of the highest peaks of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The four flames are being transferred to the four capital cities, where they will be the focus of a day of “flame celebrations”, before they are brought together into a single flame at a ceremony in Stoke Mandeville. A 24-hour relay will then take the single flame to the opening ceremony in east London.
A LOCOG spokesman said the idea of scaling the four peaks was about “showing what people can achieve”, and that they had “wanted to do something different and unique rather than replicate the Olympic torch relay”.
He said the idea would have come from the “creatives” in LOCOG’s torch relay team, but he said: “I don’t know specifically who had that idea.”
He added: “Unfortunately it was not going to be accessible to everybody but we tried to ensure that all the groups involved had a mixture [of disabled and non-disabled people].”
He said he believed that three of the mountaineers who took part in the flame-lighting events and “at least two or three” of each of the four groups of scouts were disabled people.