Wheelchair Users Denied Equal Access To Paralympics Tickets

The opening ceremony for the Paralympics will be held on Wednesday in London. On Monday, cyclist Simon Richardson, who is unable to compete after a drunk driver knocked him off his bike while he was training last summer, lit the last cauldron in Cardiff in south Wales. Richardson had won two golds and one silver medal at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 and he has vowed to return to compete. Being able to light the cauldron was, he said, “the next best thing.”

But even before the Paralympic games have gotten started, individuals with disabilities are being made to feel like second-class citizens.

The same company, Locog, that ran the Olympics is running the Paralympics. Controversy erupted early in the Olympics when, as television footage quite revealed, there were rows on rows of empty seats, even for popular events.

Individuals with disabilities seeking to book wheelchair tickets for the Paralympics or to find out their availability have been told they can only do so using a business rate (0844) phone line, says the Independent. In contrast, individuals without disabilities have been able to buy their tickets online from Locog and without incurring extra fees.

Former Labour Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe says that such an arrangement is “discrimination,” says the BBC.  Alex Rankin, of the disability charity Aspire, tells the Daily Mail that it could be “in breach of the Equality Act.” Many have expressed “outrage,” especially after being kept on hold for a long time, only to be told that no seats are available. A Facebook campaign group, “Stop the Olympics from discriminating against wheelchair users!” has been created that has nearly 900 members.

Indeed, wheelchair tickets were sold online and through dedicated phone lines without additional costs for the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing, says the Daily Mail.

Nicola Carlin, whose 5-year-old son has cerebral palsy and must use a wheelchair and who described herself as “desperate to get tickets,” told the Independent that she “called the ticket hotline more than 20 times on her Orange mobile phone, which charges 40p per minute”; she was sometimes put on hold for an hour. She was able, eventually, to purchase tickets but says “the Paralympics, of all occasions, should be making it easier for disabled people to enjoy sport, not putting up barriers such as this.”

Sarah Bard, who uses a wheelchair, decided to give up on buying tickets after long waits on her specially adapted mobile phone. As she says:

“My able-bodied friends can go online and check availability, see when the latest seats become available and buy them with no added charges.

“Wheelchair users, meanwhile, get left with only one option and that costs us extra money.”

It indeed is something near the height of irony that an event in which athletes with disabilities are participating has a discriminatory ticket policy towards individuals with disabilities.

Locog claims that its ticketing process is “inclusive and accessible.” But you have to wonder how great, or not, Locog’s efforts were to make its ticketing process one that (as it says on its website) enables “people of all abilities [to] purchase tickets easily.” Were a number of individuals with disabilities — who know what it’s like to not be able to get into a building for an event or appointment because there’s no ramp or accommodations — consulted to create facilities according to universal design, not to mention the ticketing process?


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Photo by Kasmeneo


Brian Steele
Brian Steele5 years ago

I don't know for sure how this worked out in the end, but one thing (almost the only thing) that has provoked criticism over the organisation of the Olympics and Paralympics has been access to tickets.

British spectators had to apply early last year for a ballot, committing hundreds of pounds without knowing whether they would get all, some or none of the tickets they wanted (hence the high value, as you had to apply for many events to increase chances of success). We got none the first time, but were lucky to get one event for each games in a second ballot.

Disabled tickets, however, are a different matter. As special needs access is always going to be limited at best (wheelchairs etc.), there has to be a different system. While premium rate numbers are a constant source of complaint - everyone uses them, from banks to sports events to concert venues to government departments to doctors - at least there was the opportunity to get through to someone human and get the tickets you wanted, rather than being put in a random pile and getting nothing.

Sian Rider
Sian R5 years ago

I see the problem was resolved before Kristina wrote about it.
But this is typical of many of Kristina's stories. She jumps in and makes an ass of herself with skewed stories from dubious sources.
For example - this distortion: " she “called the ticket hotline more than 20 times on her Orange mobile phone, which charges 40p per minute”;
Anyone who calls a premium number from a mobile phone is an idiot. Calls from landlines don't incur the same charges, which BTW are not those of the line being called but of the mobile phone provider.

Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

disabled people are unable to purchase tickets for the games in which disabled people participate? wow, that is just ripe with irony...and it's so wrong! i just don't understand!

Mary L.
Mary L5 years ago

Just when you think irony is dead thing like this happen. The creatures who caused this disgraceful state of affairs should have to try living a wheelchair life, be visually handicapped, etc for a week. Maybe they'd get it.

Magdalen B.
Magdalen B5 years ago

Disgraceful. A spokesperson stated that it was necessary to find out from wheelchair users the extent of their needs or something like that. I don't see why this couldn't be done on line or on a normal phone line.Surely most will just want somewhere to park so they can see.

Angela Burrow
Angela Burrow5 years ago

Bill E "Disgraceful. The UK does not have anything like our Americans with Disabilities act."

We do, it's the Disability and the Equality Act 2010. :-) I agree that it's disgraceful though and question how legal it is.

Lynn C.
Lynn C5 years ago

Pretty ironic...

Carole Cherne
Carole Cherne5 years ago

This is pure discrimination and ridiculous. How terrible!

Julia W.
Julia W5 years ago


Lyn B.
Lyn B5 years ago

How does this kind of bs STILL happen and especially at an event specifically geared to people WITH handicaps?!