The Atos Games will showcase disabled
people's anger at Paralympic sponsors
Disabled campaigners have planned a week of protests against Atos to
coincide with the start of the Paralympic Games
The Paralympics will not be the only games in town this week. Today sees
the start of "The Atos Games", a week of protest led by disabled activists
against the Paralympic sponsors who, we say, are responsible for ruining
the lives of countless disabled people throughout the country.
Atos's work capability assessment (WCA), the test that determines who is
eligible for sickness benefits, is a revolving door of assessment, appeal,
tribunal, and reassessment and it has produced many horror stories. Recent
editions of Dispatches and Panorama have exposed the pain to a wider
audience. They documented an Atos "assessor" asking someone who had
taken several overdoses why they weren't dead yet and there are stories of
people being forced to walk until they collapse, before being declared "unfit
for work". Some individuals pronounced "fit for work" by Atos are those with
serious illnesses, including advanced Parkinson's disease or multiple
sclerosis and an investigation by the Daily Mirror highlighted that 1,100
employment support allowance claimants died after being placed in "work-
related activity groups" – that's 32 a week.
The French IT company's sponsorship of the Games is, in short, beyond
But Atos is simply doing the government's dirty work, enforcing George
Osborne's £18bn welfare cuts, the government's response to a financial
crisis caused by the banking sector.
The UK was once a European example of how disabled people's inclusion,
support and equality could be applied, but it is now an example of how fast
these basic human rights can be reversed. In two years we have
witnessed the closure of the Independent Living Fund, and a huge drop in
applications to Access to Work. Basic support from local authorities is being
cut to the bone predicating a move back to the threat of institutionalisation
and away from independent living, and a move away from the inclusive
education for disabled children. The WCA has led to more and more
disabled people relying on handouts from family and friends because they
are being left without any income and some disabled people losing their
Contrary to what some might say, disabled people have led the struggle
against austerity and cutbacks in the UK from the start. The very first
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) protest was back in October 2010
and we were the first to have a synchronised online protest too, pioneering
inclusive actions which ensure that people who can't attend still have their
voices heard. Disabled people saw a need for early action at a time when
the big disability charities remained silent.
We have worked with UK Uncut to carry out audacious and effective acts of
direct action and civil disobedience, shutting down Oxford Circus in
opposition to the welfare reform bill. In the culmination of our "Atos Games",
we will be joining forces once more for The Closing Atos Ceremony.
So what are we planning for this week of action? Without giving the game
away too much there will be a host of direct actions – from phone jamming
to spoof awards.
As the Paralympics approaches we hope to see you on the streets with us.
• This article was commissioned following a suggestion made by AndyLucia.
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