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FAMILIES ASK: IS DISABLED SEATING READY ACROSS ALL PARALYMPIC VENUES?

August 24, 2012

With 14 different venues on offer and less than one week to go until the the Paralympic Games, disabled ticket holders are looking to the LOCOG website and phone lines for answers to their seating queries. Unfortunately, much of the information is missing that would ensure wheelchair users can remain independent at the Games.

As Melissa Chapin, mother of 7-year old twins, explains, “Press statements and Games phone staff are saying very different things. Disabled parents especially want reassurance that they will be able to sit with their families. Not all wheelchair spaces are mixed with general seating in all cases. Parents are asking for a few minor adjustments beforehand so focus can return where it belongs, on the athletes.”

Venues for the Paralympics include: Brands Hatch, Copper Box, Eton Dorney, Eton Manor, ExCel Centre, Greenwich Park, North Greenwich Arena, Olympic Park, Olympic Stadium, Riverbank Arena, The Mall, The Royal Artillery Barracks, the Velodrome and Weymouth & Portland.

To date, LOCOG have addressed wheelchair seating availability at just one venue, the ExCel Centre, and for one event, Sitting Volleyball. “There was a mention on TV in response to some of my queries,” she says, “but I have day passes for several sports. Also, nothing has been explained on the website or enquiry line for the general public”.

We can’t just show up on the day and hope that stewards will be able to sort us out,” she says, “there are just too many of us.”

With this in mind, what support are families with wheelchair users requesting?

ISSUES
Wheelchair users and their families aren’t able to plan in advance, take responsibility and maintain independence. Lack of communication and information is creating fear, anger and confusion.
Press statements and Games phone staff are saying very different things. Information available is incomplete or inaccurate. Wheelchair seating availability has been addressed at one venue only (ExCel) for one event (Sitting Volleyball).
Making ourselves known to stewards on the day will not be enough, there are hundreds of us.
Good info and communication promotes independence, trust and best practice for future. Wheelchair users and other disabled spectators are the Paralympic Games’ best ambassadors!

Website, maps and venue layouts show broad location of spectator area, not seating placement. Maps and venue layouts missing vital information, such as:
Location of wheelchair seats in relation to general seating
Total capacity / number of seats available (of either kind)
Ratio of wheelchair to general seating
Length/width in metres of arenas, passageways and toilets
Distance in metres between facilities

BEFORE THE GAMES
– Create/announce dedicated wheelchair seating phone line. Release in statement to press.
– Retrain ticketing phone staff to identify tickets purchased pre-Nov 2011, transfer call to dedicated team
– Ask ticket holders for invoice number, proving tickets bought together. Match invoice numbers with seating needs throughout process.
– Ascertain size of problem in advance, prepare solution at each venue as far as possible
– Train ALL seating staff to address wheelchair users’ solutions, not just 1 or 2 (prevents bottleneck)

AT THE GAMES
– Where possible, reserve first row behind wheelchair seats for family members
– Ask ticket holders to show invoice as proof family tickets bought together. Match invoice numbers against seating needs. Give priority to early purchasers, esp pre-Nov 2011 watershed.
– Provide temporary children’s chairs near wheelchair using parents.
– Create dedicated team to care for displaced families during events.

HISTORY
– September, 2011: Games tickets go on sale
– Tickets available for purchase in any combination
– Wheelchair using parents able to buy tickets for their children

– November, 2011: Wheelchair users tickets pulled from the website, now sold via phone only
– Child tickets only available via website, cannot be purchased without (non-disabled) adult ticket
– No longer possible for families with wheelchair users to buy their tickets/seats together


ENDS

For further information, please contact Melissa Chapin directly on (07890) 656990 or info@melissachapin.com

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