The Paradox of the Paralympics ~ L’Unita (Italy)

September 2, 2012
(Poor translation but intelligible nonetheless!)
Worldwide, there are more than one billion people with disabilities (15% of the world population), especially concentrated in the poorest countries, which have raged (and still raging) wars and diseases causing permanent disability and where the chances of access to treatment and rehabilitation are severely limited or non-existent, not to mention the exercise of other rights such as access to education, employment, social security.
But the vast majority of people with disabilities worldwide is not represented in the Paralympics: more of the 25 teams, 19 are from the OECD, the club of industrialized countries, other emerging countries – such as China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa – and countries with strong tradition Paralympic like Iran and Ukraine.
And ‘This is the first great paradox . In fact, the Paralimpidi are a manifestation for rich countries, and – even within rich countries – for wealthy people. In fact, to compete at that level are necessary high-tech equipment very expensive: eg, wheelchairs € 5,000, prosthetics for amputees (such as those used by Pistorius) from 15,000 euros. Cambodia, country in the world with the highest number of amputees due to landmines, has been able to send one athlete in London. Kenya has sent 13 runners and non-visually impaired and one athlete in a wheelchair. Malawi and Botswana in the end they gave up to attend the event due to lack of funds.
The Paralympics are also a media event (the opening ceremony of London was watched by a billion viewers, eighty thousand in the stadium) and this is a source of attraction for sponsors . Herein lies the second paradox – worse, the scandal – as note a recent article in The Guardian ( read here ).Among the sponsors in fact there are two powerful multinationals – Atos, Dow Chemical Company particularly hated, and for reasons very different places, by people with disabilities.
Atos is a private agency that – with a multimillion-dollar contract – the British Ministry of Labour and Social Security has entrusted the task of “cleaning up” the lists of people with disabilities who can not work and receive compensation. Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities have been “re-evaluated”, considered fit for work and private compensation. This resulted in violent waves of protest against the Ministry and against Atos, accused of throwing thousands of disabled people in despair and poverty, leading them to suicide. Another article in the Guardian reports that many of those who have been taken from the allowance are absolutely not able to find a job and that over a period of nine months 1,100 people, consider appropriate for work and private compensation, died (more).
Dow Chemical Company is the owner of Union Carbide , a company specializing in the production of pesticides and responsible for the most severe and fatal environmental accident. This occurred in Bhopal, India, in 1984, when a toxic cloud containing 40 tons of methyl isocyanate was emitted by that installation company and spread in a highly populated causing the immediate death of 2,259 people, poisoning many thousands of whom 3,900 were seriously damaged permanent and contracted various forms of disabilities. At this tragic event was followed by a lengthy legal dispute, after which the convictions of those responsible have been particularly mild and compensation totally disproportionate to the harm (eg, $ 2,200 per person died).
The third paradox is the contrast between a spectacular event that would show the world the extraordinary potential of people with disabilities, then a moment of visibility and redemption, and what happens in everyday life, where among welfare cuts, neglect and prejudice is prevented people with disabilities to lead an acceptable life simply. And things seem to get worse.
The edition of the Florentine Republic Friday, August 31 photographer plastically this paradox. In a page with four columns stands the title: ” The great night of Marco (Marco Innocenti, Florence paraplegic athlete participating in the Paralympics, specialty courts, ed.) We hope that it serves to create a new culture” .
On the next page another title in four columns: ” The disabled. Cuts and barriers, the day to day is a struggle. Abandoned by the Palazzo Vecchio . ” 
The complaint comes from various disability organizations. “The fact is that with the administration of Matteo Renzi things got worse, care for the disabled has collapsed,” says the president of the Tuscan paraplegics. 
The examples are numerous: the pedestrianization of the center – this is a paradox – has worsened the mobility of disabled people, the new tourist info points in the Loggia del Bigallo, the most popular of the city, is inaccessible to those who travel by wheelchair; the new pavement of Via Martelli, one of the most beautiful streets of Florence that leads to Piazza del Duomo, was made ​​of pitted stones that do not facilitate the mobility wheelchairs. It would take, as in other European cities, one lane completely smooth. Someone would have to think about it, but as said Marco Innocenti, it “would require a new culture.”

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