London 2012 organisers have repeatedly refused to provide information for disabled visitors to the Olympic Park in accessible formats, Disability News Service (DNS) can reveal.
Ron Newman, co-ordinator of the London 2012 disability advocate group (DAG) – set up to support and engage disabled people in the games – spoke out in a final bid to force the organising committee LOCOG into action.
He and other disabled members of the group have been warning LOCOG for years that they must provide information in “easy read” and Braille versions to visitors on the Olympic Park, but their pleas have been ignored.
His call came only a day after the prominent disabled activist Ruth Bashall criticised London 2012 after helpline staff were unable to tell her if there was a charging point for her powerchair on the Olympic Park, or even if she could bring her charger with her through the security checkpoint.
Newman told DNS he was appalled by LOCOG’s failure on accessible information, and added: “They have let us down. LOCOG have let disabled people down.”
Newman worked for two years as a volunteer “trailblazer” for LOCOG and is now working as a “games-maker” on the Olympic Park, although he made it clear that he was speaking in his capacity as DAG coordinator.
He is working as a games-maker on a visitor information kiosk just outside the main Olympic Stadium but has no easy-read or Braille versions of information such as the daily athletics schedule, how the classification system works, and an explanation of each of the Paralympic athletics classifications.
During a typical evening athletics session, Newman says he has to turn down about 10 requests for easy read or Braille versions of information.
He said he and DAG repeatedly raised the need for information to be available on the Olympic Park in accessible formats and for games-makers to be trained on the accessibility needs of disabled visitors.
He said: “We were told by the diversity and inclusion team, ‘yes, guys, don’t worry, come the opening day of the Olympic Games everything will be sorted.’ So we believed them. They are the professionals.”
But Newman came onto to the Olympic Park on the second day of the Olympics as a spectator and was shocked to find that games-makers did not know what an induction loop was, or where the nearest accessible “Changing Places” toilet was.
Although the training for games-makers was improved in time for the start of the Paralympics, LOCOG is still refusing to supply information to visitors in accessible formats at their information points.
The only accessible format they can provide on the information points is a large print version they can print out if requested by a visitor.
Newman said: “The Braille and easy read is still not here and we are in the Paralympic Games. I don’t know the reason behind it. I have given up asking. I just do my job as a games-maker.
“I offered to help them in the two-week break between the Olympics and the Paralympics but never got the call.”
Newman, a powerchair-user himself, also spoke out about the failure of the London 2012 ticketing team to send out information with tickets about the positioning of power-points on the Olympic Park available to recharge powerchairs.
He said DAG members had repeatedly raised this issue with the ticketing team but were told “we know what we are doing”.
Newman also criticised LOCOG’s failure to include information about charging points on the London 2012 website.
And he said power-points should have been available beside the wheelchair-accessible spaces inside all of the venues – rather than outside at information kiosks – so powerchair-users could recharge their chairs while they watched their events.
DNS understands that Chris Holmes, the multi-gold medal-winning Paralympian who is now director of Paralympic integration for LOCOG, has been informed about the problems with accessible information.
A LOCOG spokesman said the only official publications available at the information points were maps of the Olympic Park.
He said: “We endeavour to create all of our publications with accessible formats in mind.
“We have only ever produced publications in other formats on a request basis and the spectator guides which come with tickets are available in other formats on request. Information is also available online in a range of accessible formats.
“Sport schedules can and do change, therefore are not available in publication form. However, staff at the information points will print them off on the day.”
He added: “They do print off schedules but that is not an official publication. The fact that the information is available is because those people in the help points have made that information available.”
He has so far been unable to explain why Braille and easy-read versions of athlete classifications cannot be made available at the information points.
And he said he could not yet explain why information on charging points was not sent out with tickets to powerchair-users, or why there were not charging points beside wheelchair spaces inside venues.
2 September 2012