New concerns over London 2012’s search for disabled volunteers


A leading user-led arts organisation has raised new concerns over the search for volunteers to take part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the London 2012 Paralympics.

Last week, disabled artists and performers warned that many disabled people would be put off by a call from London 2012 for 5, 000 volunteers with “huge amounts of energy”.

The 2012 organising committee LOCOG has defended the call and says volunteers will need “an expectation of what is required of them so they do not drop out when they realise it is going to be quite demanding”.

Now CoolTan Arts the London-based arts charity which is run by and for adults with mental distress, has raised new concerns about LOCOG’s volunteer call.

LOCOG wrote to CoolTan saying that it was urgently seeking more volunteers to take part in the two Paralympic ceremonies, but suggested they would have to pay for their own travel and food.

Michelle Baharier, CoolTan’s chief executive, said the itinerary proposed for volunteers by LOCOG was also totally inappropriate.

She said: “They want them to turn up for rehearsals about four days a week. They are not willing to pay people’s fares, they are not willing to give people refreshments.

“Their demands outstrip what everybody running a volunteer project would normally expect.

“There are a lot of people who would love to be part of the ceremony. They would like it to be more accessible, but they would like it to be on their terms.”

Baharier said she was disappointed that disabled people did not seem to be in control of the artistic and cultural celebrations around the Paralympics.

Following repeated requests from Disability News Service over the last eight days for information about travel and support for their volunteers, LOCOG finally pledged that it would ask “all auditionees (and subsequently cast members) to indicate what support might be required so that we can help facilitate their involvement”.

A LOCOG spokesman added: “We want to make sure applicants who are deaf or disabled are provided with the necessary support during each stage of the process.”

He said that all those cast in the opening and closing ceremonies would be given Transport for London “Oyster” travel cards that would allow them to travel to and from the rehearsal venues for no charge, as long as they lived within zones one to six, which cover all of Greater London.

He added: “For all our rehearsals we supply water (other beverages to be confirmed). For our long all-day rehearsals we will supply meal packs.”

26 January 2012