A leading Deaf performer has called London 2012 “cowardly” and “immature” for ignoring his complaints about the lack of accessibility for Deaf visitors to the Paralympic Games.
David Bower had spoken out after visiting the equestrian dressage events in Greenwich Park, and was highly critical of the treatment he received from London 2012 volunteers – known as “games makers”.
He also pointed to the failure to provide any subtitles or British Sign Language interpreters on the video screens, which meant Deaf visitors were unaware of instructions to the crowd – particularly about the importance of keeping quiet while horses were performing – and information about riders and their horses.
The London 2012 organising committee LOCOG has since admitted that the accessibility failings in Greenwich Park apply to all other London 2012 venues.
It has also failed to apologise to Bower, formerly best-known for his role in the hit British film Four Weddings and a Funeral and now just as well-known as artistic director of the “signdance” music theatre company Signdance Collective.
LOCOG claims that it “exceeds standard practice”, that its games makers all receive training on “diversity and inclusion”, that Deaf spectators can bring their own interpreter to events at no cost for the extra seat, and that they can also request a seat with a direct view of one of the video screens, which it says show “predominantly imagery”.
But it has so far failed to explain why there are no subtitles or BSL-interpretation on the London 2012 screens, and how Deaf spectators who cannot afford to bring their own interpreters are expected to understand important instructions for the crowd, such as keeping quiet during large parts of some events, including goalball, dressage, blind football and the starts of swimming and athletics races.
After being told of LOCOG’s response, Bower said: “When I attended the equestrian event there was absolutely no indication of any deaf awareness.
“Running after a deaf person in public and being shouted at in front of hundreds of spectators by agitated stewards is outrageous and demonstrates beyond a shadow of doubt the lack of deaf awareness.
“May I suggest that the corporate sector stop interfering with access initiatives and leave it to the experts as there is more to civilisation than the profit margin.
“Issuing statements claiming success at achieving effective inclusive practice is extremely immature and cowardly to say the least.”
Isolte Avila, Signdance Collective’s disabled dance director, who was with Bower at Greenwich, said: “So a deaf person just out on a leisure day, ie not work, has to have an interpreter?
“How about deaf international guests, how about deaf courtesy and basic deaf awareness training? There was none at the venue yesterday and the so-called games makers told us they had had no deaf equality training or awareness about basic communication and access for deaf people coming into the parks.
“The games makers were obviously upset about what happened and were confused as to why they had not had any training.”
Bower and Avila had been at the event as guests of the Together! 2012 festival, organised by the UK Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC), at which they were performing.
Julie Newman, UKDPC’s acting chair, criticised LOCOG’s failure to apologise to Bower or to welcome feedback on its performance on accessibility.
6 September 2012