As the sun sets on a successful Olympic Games in London, the Paralympics are fast approaching. London 2012 was applauded for its vibrant, efficient and inspiring approach to the Games and the Paralympics will hope to take on the same mantle. Despite criticism over the "Empty Seats" fiasco which saw many unaccounted for tickets during the Olympics, the Paralympics is hoping to learn from the ticketing fiasco, with over 2.2 million tickets out of 2.5 million already being sold.
However, one wheelchair user has claimed that she has been denied from sitting with her family during the Paralympics, with provisions unlikely because of official policy. Beth Davis-Hofbauer says she was inspired like millions across the UK by the London 2012 Olympic Games and decided that she would take her family to the Paralympics. "I decided I wanted to take family to the Paralympics to sample the once in a lifetime showcase of disabled sport in London" she tells Change.org.
"I am a wheelchair user, with a four-year-old autistic son and a nineteen-month-old baby. Naturally we wanted to sit together and, particularly as it’s the Paralympics, I assumed there would be adequate provision for this to happen. I was stunned to hear that there was no way that this could happen as there is a policy that wheelchair users can only be accompanied by one other person."
According to the London 2012 official site, "wheelchair spaces are available in all price categories for every Olympic and Paralympic sport. A companion seat is included in the cost of a ticket for a wheelchair space". However, because of Beth's situation, she says she cannot believe that the Paralympics, "designed to inspire a new generation of athletes, has a discriminatory ticketing policy".
"It’s essential that my husband sits with me as he helps me with things I need to do and clearly my kids can’t sit separately. Quite apart from these practical considerations, I want to share this special occasion with my family, but I’m being prevented from doing so just because I am in a wheelchair."
Beth has started a campaign on Change.Org to get the International Paralympic Committee and London 2012 to change the accessibility for wheelchair users.
Speaking to Blottr via email, Beth says she phoned a specialist wheelchair access support number on the London 2012 website, and spoke to one of the operators. "The policy is 1 wheelchair, 1 companion and no seating for anyone else". The operator suggested that Beth's 4 year old autistic son and 19 month old daughter sit on their own, or that Beth's husband sit with her children and she would sit on her own, but because of her disability, this was not possible. They also suggested that another ticket be bought so that somebody else could sit with the children.
"I stated this is not possible and offered to pay full price for my children and have them sit on our laps, owing to autism and age this would probably have happened anyway and I was told no. To be fair to the lad I spoke to he did go and speak to his manager and came back to tell me that that was not the policy. He agreed that it was cruel and unfair but there was nothing that could be done."
Because of the wheelchair access issues, Beth and her family will not be able to go to the Paralympic Games. She says that in the past, her and her family have never had any problems going to any events. "We have been to many music festivals which to be honest are most of the time a bit of a joke [regarding] access. But we do not like to see the downside and do not want to deprive our children so we just carry on coping with things which really are not good enough.
"Going to see the paralympics was mainly for our autistic child and to experience this once in a lifetime event as a family. Many disabled people I have come into contact with and apart from festivals this is only family members, seem to feel that they have no choice, that we should accept this treatment. I don't think we should. We are the same as anyone else, we have families, run businesses, try to do the best for our children and we should not be treated like second class citizens. This is 2012, it's time for a change!"