Former UK Home Secretary David Blunkett, who has been blind since birth, has personally written to Olympic chief Lord Coe after he was turned away from his seat at the Paralympics Opening Ceremony because he was with his guide dog. Mr Blunkett, a Labour MP of 25 years, claims he instead had to watch the brilliant opening ceremony from a windy, exposed gantry rather than from his seat. The MP was supposed to take his seat beside Paul Potts, a non-executive director of Channel 4 as a guest of the channel but was told there was no room for him and his guide dog. Mr Blunkett said that he pointed out immediately that this was the Paralympics and that my name was on one of the seats, with the clear understanding that it was likely that I would have brought my dog but did also say he was treated with courtesy despite not being seated.
In a separate row, The organisers of the Paralympic Games were accused of discriminating against the disabled by making wheelchair users book tickets for events via business rate phone lines. Those trying to book wheelchair tickets or check their availability could only do so by calling an 0844 number costing up to 41p a minute from mobiles, while able-bodied people can buy their tickets online without incurring extra costs. The arrangements have caused outrage among some disabled people who say they have been kept on hold for long periods of time running up large bills before being told there are no seats available. Wheelchair user Sarah Bard, 32, said she called the hotline from her specially adapted mobile phone six times and was put on hold for up to 15 minutes each time. She has now given up attempting to buy tickets. A Facebook campaign group called “Stop the Olympics from discriminating against wheelchair users!” attracted close to 700 members. Locog said it did not make any revenue from the phone line.
In better news for inclusion, news has leaked that a new orchestra created by the conductor Charles Hazlewood, whose six year old daughter has cerebal palsy, will play at the closing ceremony which will also feature Coldplay. The 17 piece orchestra (called the ‘paraorchestra’) features musicians with disabilities including trumpet player Clarence Adoo who was left paralysed beneath his shoulders after a car accident and now makes electronic music using a tube to blow into.
Over 2.4 million tickets have been sold for the Games, making them the most successful Paralympcis ever.