A year ago crowds flocked to the Olympic Park to see the world’s finest athletes in action. But are those inspired by the Paralympic Games involved in sport today – or watching from the stands?
Remember this? How could you forget.
The Paralympics were supposed to inspire a generation – and well perhaps they did. Disabled athletes were visible like never before – and now unprecedented numbers of disabled people want to do sport in unprecedented numbers. The question is – can they?
Channel 4 News has been investigating. And what we found is troubling. It boils to down to 3 things. Accessible equipment. Attitudes. To cold, hard cash.
Access gyms do exist – this place in Luton opened in para month – it’s proving particularly popular with disabled people.
Patricia Stanbridge has diabetes. She lost a leg – then had a heart attack. Her doctor prescribed gym sessions to keep her fit. And since last year her view of what’s possible, has been transformed.
What did the paras mean for you – things I can still do just with one leg – and I’d like to try
Pat’s sporting renaissance doesn’t end with the gym. Cos part of this brand new 26 million pound fitness complex is this.
Challenge – like to learn to swim again – frightened of water – gonna give it a go – yes – buying swimwear.
This facility has only been open a year. But the number of disabled users has already doubled.
Gyms though, can have all the wheelchair ramps and fancy kit in the world – but do they really want disabled customers?
The spirit of the paras hasn’t transformed everyone – a few months after the games, a chain of high street fitness centres owned by TV entrepreneur duncan bannatyne was found guilty of disability discrimination.
Hydrotherapy. This, and regular massage, helps Naresh Kumar stay supple. For a while he suffered from reflux. After a massage at a Bannatyne fitness centre he threw up some water into a treatment room sink.
Had my massage – lying down – got up – vomited in the sink – told them – that’s the right thing to do – so I told them.
It happened again – twice – Naresh paused the treatments. When the reflux cleared up, he wanted to resume. But Banntynes imposed unusual restrictions on him, and refused to take his bookings. They claimed he’d projectile vomited on their staff – he hadn’t – they said he had weeping, inflamed skin – he didn’t. Naresh challenged them – things got more difficult. He asked his solicitor to help out. So Bannatyne Fitness banned him.
it was a snowball effect – group culture – everything Naresh did became a bigger and bigger problem – shutdown
Why didn’t you just go to a diff gym?
I decided it wasn’t fair. I wanted justice.
In the build up to the Paralympics Naresh took Bannatyne Fitness to court. They lost. Last December, just 3 months after the Games, they were told to pay out nearly £13,000 in compensation. The judge said Bannnatyne Fitness conducted its business in a state of ignorance of its obligations to disability. They had a
`tendency to think the worst of Mr Kumar’. The judge called it `groupthink’. They just didn’t want him any more.
Why do you think they were treating you like this?
Because I had cerebal palsy.
Duncan Bannatyne has appeared on Channel 4’s Last Leg comedy show. But in the months since the Paralympics, his fitness centres have been found guilty of disability discrimination.
They gave Channel 4 News this statement: “Our health clubs actively help people with disabilities use the facilities. Although we accept this judgement…we were very disappointed with the findings… Our decisions were not taken lightly. We believe they were in the best interests of the gentlemen concerned and our dedicated staff. “
The accessibility challenge doesn’t end with attitudes or equipment though. The 2012 games – a one off event – cost 9 billion pounds. But what about funding going forwards?
Ability Bow, just a stone’s throw from the Olympic stadium has provided gym facilities for disabled people for 6 years now, but less than 12 months since the paras, it’s all under threat.
Ability bow is not your everyday gym. It’s a unique rehab facility for disabled people. It gets people fit – and saves the state money
Maria Albert used to be a dance teacher. The she got MS. This gym, she says, brought her back from a crushing depression.
Can u quantify?
Coming here is like my medicine, it’s my medicine – if this place wasn’t here, it would be like someone taking away my medicine.
So when you’ve done your workout, how do you feel?
I feel good, yeah.
Chris Ayres has a recurring auto immune disease. His Paralympics were spent temporarily paralysed, in a hospital bed. Now – he’s back at work. It’s been a phenomenal recovery.
Q no doubt in your mind, this place helped you get back to work.
Oh yes definitely, without a doubt – not sure what id have done if this place wasn’t here
But the NHS is being restructured. Ability Bow’s funding has been cut. They’re 40 thousand pounds down. They’ve already lost staff – they even do their own cleaning.
So they asked influential people for help.
They have had negative replies – no funding – seb coe – letter – signed postcard in lieu of being able to offer us any funding, in view we might be able to auction that
What would that get?
Well we put it out for auction and we got 2 quid – sorry lord coe.
Lord Coe himself said The Paralympics would inspire a generation. Who would doubt that they have. But the Paralympic Legacy still needs work.