A gold medal-winning Paralympian is to take part in a protest over the decision to allow the much-criticised company responsible for assessing disabled people’s “fitness for work” to sponsor the London 2012 Paralympics.
Tara Flood, now a leading disabled activist, competed in three Paralympic Games, and won gold, silver and bronze medals in the pool in Barcelona in 1992, and still holds a breaststroke world record.
She is to take part in the action outside City Hall in London on Monday evening (27 August), the first of five days of protests organised by the grassroots campaign groups Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and UK Uncut.
The protests will focus on the work capability assessments (WCAs) carried out by Atos Healthcare to test disabled people’s fitness for work on behalf of the government.
But Atos is also a sponsor and IT partner of the Paralympics and built the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) new website. The ties were strengthened last year when the IPC co-opted the founder and former chair of Atos, Bernard Bourigeaud, onto its governing board.
Only last month, serious concerns about the work of Atos in delivering WCAs were raised in two investigative television documentaries broadcast on the same night.
The week of action – which campaigners are calling “the Atos Games” – will include protests at Atos assessment centres across the country, and at the company’s London headquarters.
Flood said: “The irony is extraordinary. On the one hand, Atos are giving money to an event that is about celebrating disabled people’s sporting achievements, while on the other delivering a government contract to destroy disabled people’s lives.”
But she stressed that Atos was delivering a government policy. “There are huge problems with the Atos delivery, but this is a government agenda to dehumanise people as workshy.”
Like many other disabled activists, although she will be protesting about the involvement of Atos in London 2012, Flood has tickets to watch several Paralympic events, including many of the swimming finals, and the opening ceremony.
She said: “In many ways, I do love the idea of a real celebration of disability sport in its own right. What I dislike is the structure around it, with the sport controlled by non-disabled ‘experts’.”
23 August 2012