Paralympian stripped of gold in protest against sponsors Atos
DPAC's week of action against Paralympics sponsor Atos begins with Gold medalist Paralympian Tara Flood getting a gold at the opening ceremony for the 'Atos Games', but like other medal winners she was stripped of it after a mock 'Atos assesment'.
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) held a spoof Opening Ceremony for the Atos Games in front of Tower Bridge, which now has the Paralympic symbol hanging from it. The games are a national week of action against Paralympics sponsor Atos, whose computer based 'fitness for work' tests have led to stress, hardship deaths and suicides among the disabled.
Over 50 people, including many in wheelchairs arrived to take part in the protest, which began with a several speeches about the problems caused by Atos assessments which led to this action, as well as mentioning other unsuitable Olympic sponsors such as Dow, still failing to take up their responsibility for the Bhopal disaster, and the scandal of disabled prisoner Daniel Roque Hall, now in intensive care after the failure of Wormwood Scrubs to provide the necessary medical facilities for him.
After a few problems with the breeze, the Atos Games flame was finally lit, although the candle seemed in constant danger of blowing out it did burn for some minutes. Those at the protest then sang the Atos Games song, 'Imagine there's no ATOS' though it wasn't quite clear to me what tune was intended.
The first medals of the Atos Games were then awarded, in the 'Individual pursuit of peace of mind - Everyweight Division', with Yusef being given the bronze, Adam Lotun the silver, and Tara Flood adding to her formidable total of medals - as well as the gold at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, she also gained two silvers and four bronzes as well as a World Record.
After all the winners had got up onto the podium and been awarded their medals, they were then each assessed by the 'Atos doctor' present. She asked them to spell 'DLA' and when they got it right told them that they were not disabled enough to keep their medals, which she then cut off with large scissors.
DPAC make it clear that this is not a protest against sports or those taking part in the Paralympics, but against the government and Atos:
"We’re not against the Paralympics or the people taking part in it. We’re highlighting the hypocrisy of Atos, a company that soon may be taking disability benefits from the people winning medals for Team GB.
Ever since George Osborne announced he was slashing £18 billion from the welfare budget, the government has paid Atos £100 million a year to test 11,000 sick and disabled people every week, then decide whether they’re ‘fit for work’."
Independent reports, including those produced for the Department for Work and Pensions, have found the testing by Atos to be unfit for purpose, and the figures for appeals show this clearly, with around 40% of the extremely high number of appeals being successful. But the appeal process is also unsatisfactory in that it takes so long that almost as soon as the result is given, a claimant may be due for a further Atos test which will usually again give the faulty result.
A few of the more ridiculous results of Atos testing make the news - such as a man in a coma found fit for work, or people with terminal cancer who die within days of the test which tells them they must get work, but mostly cases are less dramatic except to the person involved.
Benefit cuts for the disable can actually have a perverse effect, and some disabled people whose current benefits enable them to work (for example by providing aids to mobility) are having these cut and are no longer able to work.
The president of the International Paralympic Committee, Philip Craven, in an interview with The Guardian recently called for the word 'disabled' to be dropped from the media coverage of the London 2012 Paralympics games, as well as defending the role of Atos as games sponsors. But many among the disabled disagree, including Tara Flood. Although her 1992 Barcelona gold medal is safe, she now fears that her assessment by Atos will result in her losing the allowance that enables her to drive to work - and today's other medallists have both already lost benefits. Flood is just one of 90,000 disabled people who expect to have their support through the vital motability scheme removed.