LOCOG gets a gold medal for disabled access
I’m even going to suggest a medal. And I’m not being sarcastic.
Let me explain: I took a big risk on Sunday, dispensing with my wheelchair because I was taking my mother to see the basketball and I wanted her to be able to enjoy the event without having to push me around the place.
This was slightly nerve wracking. My legs are still not good over anything other than a short distance (crutch assisted).
Any journey of any kind requires a certain amount of forward planning, and the building in of contingencies (such as carrying at least a couple of £20 notes in case an emergency taxi is needed).
I’d seen the mobility scooters and wheelchairs around the Olympic Park on a previous visit but, all the same, experience teaches that just because a place provides something doesn’t mean it’s available.
I suffered an unpleasant humiliation at my local Tesco recently when I simply asked the head of security if I could fill my shoulder bag with a few items of shopping because I can’t manage a trolley or basket and I didn’t want a store detective following me around. You’ll have to use a scooter, he said, have you used it before? Erm, no. OK you can’t use it, you might hit someone (so how does anyone learn?). We’ll have to get someone to help you around the shop. No one was available (of course).
A minor and heated conference ensued with me – legs about to buckle – at the centre of several members of staff debating what to do with me. Until the assistant manager was called and he told them not to be so stupid, allowing me to complete my errand (after a lengthy rest).
Locog was getting something of a the reputation for officiousness in the run up to the games. And I genuinely feared a Tesco part 2: No, you can’t have a scooter if you haven’t used one before. Anyway you haven’t booked. And there’s a £2000 deposit required. It’s £1,000 for a wheelchair. Which you can’t have because you haven’t booked. And so on.
This sort of thing has been par for the course since my accident left me as a blue badge holder.
To my surprise, at the Games there has been none of it. The only minor difficulties have been with other spectators, not the organisers or the volunteers. They’ve actually done a stand up job.
Spying me labouring en route to the park one of them urged me to stop, ran up to the site and fetched a wheelchair. He then proceeded to ferry me to a mobility centre where they happily handed over a scooter in return for a signature and gave me a quick run through on how to use it. And we were off. Happy days.
What’s the point of all this?
Well, last night at the boxing (similar performance, help cheerfully offered when asked for) I told my brother how impressed I’d been with the set up.
He agreed, it had been pretty good. But he made the following point: “You really shouldn’t have to say that. It should just always be like that.”
Yes, but in the outside world, it isn’t. So a gold for Locog. But Tesco gets disqualified. And so do an awful lot of others.Tagged in: Accessibility, disability, Locog, London 2012, olympics
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