The Paralympic Games begin in less than two weeks here in London, and where better to hold such an event than the city that held the forerunner to the Paralympics, the 1948 Wheelchair Games? What better place indeed? Many people – both able-bodied and disabled alike – from all over the world will be converging into the capital’s Olympic venues to enjoy the Paralympic events, which is fine as long they don’t want to sit together. The official Olympic website does, however, boast of, among other things, “numerous accessible toilets” for the lucky disabled to enjoy. Parking spaces close to the sporting venues are apparently limited in number though, but disabled spectators will be able to wheel, stumble or drag themselves the considerable distances from their cars to the events, and these feats of exertion and endurance will enable them to empathise with their sporting heroes, thus making the experience all the more real. So it seems that London has also considerately made the decision to not make things easy for the disabled during the Paralympic events in order to avoid patronising them with fawning concern for their needs.
Furthermore, some parts of London have decided to continue to challenge its once over-privileged disabled citizens by charging them for previously free blue badges which allow them to park in the limited disabled spaces available. The charitable act of charging the disabled for easier access to amenities, making them feel less patronised by the more abled of body, is being trialled by Barnet council but is expected to be rolled out in other areas of London. This hasn’t stopped some whingeing disablers making a fuss though. Jeff Rafael, trustee of Disability Action Barnet, backtracking on his decision to become disabled, moaned, “It is like we’re being charged for being disabled. No-one is disabled by choice and it feels like we’re being victimised – it’s ridiculous.” Brushing the chip from his shoulder, he went on to gripe, “If they are going to charge, they need to make sure the spaces are available. Nine times out of ten I get to a space and it is parked in by someone without a badge or who is not the intended user.”
I must say that I find this spurious claim hard to swallow.
And if they do not wish to access London by car fortuitous Londoners in wheelchairs have the option of using the tube. The map clearly shows that the capital’s four wheeled fortunates are easily able access nearly a third of stations. If there is no step free access at their destination there is nothing to stop them just staying on the train and having a lovely chat with one of the friendly locals until they arrive at a station that has.
Or if they prefer, wheelchair users and those with visual disabilities can access London using our spacious, clutter-free walkways. Waltham Forest, one of the Olympic boroughs, has a long history of providing such top notch facilities.
So come on, disableds of the world, stop moaning and just enjoy yourselves.