As confusion grows over Paralympic seating for wheelchair users, a disabled mother calls for change after being told she may have to sit separately from her two young children.
A Locog ticket agent also said that her children should not have been sold tickets without an accompanying adult, Ms Chapin told Channel 4 News. “I explained to her that I am an adult, and she had to backtrack and admit she meant a non-disabled adult.”
Locog’s aim to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games the most “accessible and inclusive ever” has been well publicised, and it says it exceeded the usual number of wheelchair space provision in other UK sports venues.
However, there is growing concern that this is not enough, with politicians such as John Prescott joining the debate: “Come on @sebcoe. Let’s allow families with disabled parents enjoy the Paralympics together,” he tweeted.
And Ms Chapin is not the only wheelchair user to have had problems with Paralympic ticketing. Beth Davis-Hofbauer [pictured below], a mother of two who uses a wheelchair, also says she was told she would not be able to sit with her children when she tried to get tickets this week.
She says the Locog ticket office told her there is a policy that wheelchair users can only be accompanied by one other person – something Locog denies. Ms Davis-Hofbauer booked four tickets but was told only one person could accompany her in the wheelchair area. Her husband is her carer, and her four-year-old autistic son and 19-month-old daughter are also attending the event.
I explained to her that I am an adult, and she had to backtrack and admit she meant a non-disabled adult. Melissa Chapin
She launched a Change.org petition, urging organisers to change their policy, which now has almost 25,000 signatures.
A Locog spokesperson said the availability for all spectators – including wheelchair users – was now an issue as some events are selling out in the weeks approaching the Games, meaning that tickets together are more difficult to obtain. More than 2.1 million tickets have already been sold for the Paralympics.
Q and A: How to get Paralympic tickets
Ms Chapin bought tickets for herself and her carer, as well as her eight-year-old twins last September.
They are hoping to attend sitting volleyball at the ExCel arena and have day passes to attend other general admission events, including boccia, table tennis and powerlifting.
“This is about the kids. They’ve been looking forward to this for over a year. They shouldn’t be penalised just because their mummy happens to sit on wheels,” she said.
Wheelchair users not ‘separate’
Despite the confusion, a Locog spokesperson said the sitting volleyball tickets Ms Chapin purchased are not allocated, so are made available on a first come first served basis.
“As we have designed our venues such that accessible seating will be located around the new venues at different price points, this means that wheelchair users will be able sit with their friends and families rather than in a separate designated area,” he told Channel 4 News. “Children can be accompanied by any responsible adult, whether a wheelchair user or otherwise.”
Our situation highlights an important issue, namely that planners in this case, but also society generally, haven’t considered that disabled spectators might have children, spouses and friends who are not their carers. Melissa Chapin
Ms Chapin said she is now confident about volleyball seating. “But my concern is the other open events,” she said.
“I don’t think as a wheelchair users will be able to roll in to any event and be able to sit with my children. And I’m worried for people who don’t have tickets yet.
“Our situation highlights an important issue, namely that planners in this case, but also society generally, haven’t considered that disabled spectators might have children, spouses and friends who are not their carers,” she told Channel 4 News. “It’s not Locog’s fault – you don’t know what disabled people need unless you ask them.”
In addition to wheelchair users’ difficulty in securing seats next to their family members, they have been forced to book tickets via telephone, rather than online.
Locog stopped selling wheelchair tickets online last November, and users now have to call up an 0844 number. Locog said this was because of a “separate quota” for wheelchair tickets, and the Disability News Service reports that some users have been put on hold and forced to put up with greater inconvenience as a result.
Ms Chapin says she was “one of the lucky ones” in booking her tickets in September.
This Friday will be five years since we lost Rozyla”Rita” Vayner, or as you hear me refer to her momma. She was Ella’s mom but momma was mom to everyone whether you were her child by blood or not.
When I first told I had been molested I lost my siblings, when I came out my mother disowned me and when my marriage fell apart my ex and the courts took my children and I come from a family where if my mom the tough matriarch hates you, you become persona non gratis to all. So I went from being one of over 400 descendants living from my great grandmother to being an orphan over night.
Over the next two decades I taught myself that mothers were what other people had. When I met Ella in 1998 I met her mom, she told me three things
1/ ever make my daughter cry and I’ll return the favor
2/ stop the Russian you suck at it
3/ and if I hate you because you’re trans or lesbian then I am no better than those who hate me because I’m Jewish.
So I became family, over the next 9 years she taught me the cuisine, and she taught me the language until i was conversational and didnt suck anymore and she taught me I could have a mother who loved me unconditionally again she became momma. Then she got sick , One day when momma was sick I was between work so I caught two buses and two trains each way every day from Belmont in the Bronx to flushing in queens and I nursed her. I lifted her I cooked for her I joked with her and when she first tasted my food she was in love, she joked one day “ I give Ella away and adopt you your food is fucking wonderful” (yes momma could swear like a sailor) so when she was at her sickest with cancer and going through constant bouts of chemo I used to ask every morning as I arrived “hey you old bag signed the adoption papers yet?” she would yell back “fuck off my pen broke” then she would laugh and tell me she loved me.
When we could do no more and chemo had stopped workingand we were told she was dying we were called to Columbia Presbyterian oncology ward. We were told she had barely the night left and if we wanted to say good bye we better do it because they were about to increase her morphine and she would not know we were there. She called me to the bed in Russian and said “I found a fucking pen that worked, I signed the papers yesterday you’re mine”.
I sat at her side for 12 more hours and I was there when she her drew her last breath on earth. We live in her apartment we feel her everywhere we smell her scent and we feel her love we always will because when philosophers talk about one great love in your life so many think they’re talking about your wife or a lover or a husband for me it will always be her. Momma gave me two great gifts I will forever cherish, her beautiful daughter Ella the love of my life and 9 fantastic years when if you asked if I had a mother I could once again smile and say “of course I do” ya tibia lu blu momma I miss you every waking moment.
The world got is so fucking wrong august 17th 2007, so wrong and the universe was left with a hole in it that can never be filled. She is the reason I am doing the roll for the cure I promised to crawl over broken glass to save her and I failed, I promised her I would do it anyway she never saw me in a chair only on walking sticks.
So I won’t say all mothers are great and should be loved because that’s not true some woman should ever have children my birth mother was such a being .Rita Vayner was living proof that when the universe gets it right it really gets it right this Friday I won’t be on line much I’ll be with poppa and Ella crying and smiling and remembering so here’s to the mothers who mean it who are there for all time and get it right love you momma.