London 2012 organisers have failed to explain why wheelchair-users can no longer book tickets for this month’s Paralympics through the official website.
It came as London 2012 reported record sales of Paralympic tickets, three weeks before the games open.
Last November, the London 2012 organising committee LOCOG stopped disabled people from booking tickets for wheelchair-accessible spaces for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games through its website.
Instead, wheelchair-users have had to ring an 0844 telephone number – with waits now of up to 45 minutes to get through – even though this option will not be accessible to many disabled people.
It has also been impossible to find out what wheelchair tickets are still available, for which events, and at what price – for both the Olympics and Paralympics – without ringing the 0844 number.
One wheelchair-user, who asked not to be named, said: “Everyone else logs onto the website, surveys what tickets are available, and makes their purchase.”
She added: “I am shocked and incredibly disappointed that this [phone only] system is considered acceptable for the thousands of wheelchair-users who would like to purchase tickets.”
A LOCOG spokeswoman said: “Tickets for wheelchair-users have been on sale in this way since November 2011.”
She said this was introduced because of a “separate quota” for wheelchair tickets, but has so far failed to explain what this quota is or why it means that wheelchair-users have to use a telephone booking line.
She said the London 2012 phone line had been “busy” because of the high demand for tickets, but that LOCOG had worked to “prioritise wheelchair-users” and had “emailed known wheelchair-users on our database to advise on availability”.
She added: “We are very proud of the work we have done to maximise the availability of wheelchair spaces for the games which we believe sets new standards for Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and other major events.”
But LOCOG has so far been unable to explain how wheelchair-users should buy their tickets if they cannot use the telephone.
LOCOG has now sold 2.1 million tickets for the Paralympics, including 600,000 in the last month.
This beats the previous record of 1.8 million tickets sold for the Beijing games, with three weeks still to go before the opening ceremony.
By 8 August, only 400,000 tickets remained unsold, although more will be released online in the next week.
Sir Philip Craven, president of the International Paralympic Committee, said this showed the “insatiable appetite the public has for top class elite sport”.
He said the “quite spectacular Olympic Games” had “further whetted the appetite of the public ahead of the Paralympics”.
He added: “Our aim now is to sell every single ticket. It would be fitting that when the Paralympic movement returns to its spiritual birthplace in three weeks’ time it does so in front of packed, sold-out venues.”
Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the British Paralympic Association, added: “I know our athletes can’t wait to compete in front of the biggest crowds ever at a Paralympic Games and we want them to be full of British fans.”
Reports from wheelchair-users who have secured Olympic tickets have so far been overwhelmingly positive about the venues, volunteers and their overall experience.
Phil Friend, vice-chair of Disability Rights UK, a leading disability consultant and a wheelchair-user, said on his blog that access at both the Olympic Park and for the equestrian events in Greenwich had been “brilliant”.
He said that “views inside every stadium were superb, the wheelchair spaces were situated in amongst the rest of the spectators, parking worked, [and there were] accessible toilets everywhere”.
He added: “The last time the games came to London in 1948 many disabled people were in institutions and access was more by luck than judgement.
“This time disabled people were there in all shapes and sizes, playing their part in the greatest show this country has ever produced. We have come a very long way.”
Meanwhile, LOCOG has been unable to say how many wheelchair-users attended the Olympics opening ceremony, following reports of empty seats.
A LOCOG spokeswoman said that “on wheelchair seats left unsold we’re not providing this level of breakdown”, but that LOCOG “might” reveal those figures after the games had ended.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com