By João Paulo Petersen *
Researcher, historian, and music critic specialized in Beatles, with many achievements in Brazil and published articles in several countries. I’m 37 years old, quadriplegic disabled, never walked, a wheelchair user. I have dedicated myself to studying Beatles’ life and work, as well as producing historical and critical articles about this aesthetic and socio-anthropological subject since 1989. In 2000, I created the Yellow Submarine site; the first online store specialized in Beatles in Latin America, which had become the biggest online store in its category in a short period of time. Commercializing only sealed-official products, imported from their legitimate sources. The Yellow Submarine site has closed its activities in 2005, unable to bear the competition of piracy and illegitimate downloads, in its multiples ways and processes. Author of dozens of published articles in USA, Japan and Italy. Currently, I have the blog Beatles’ Corner (Esquina dos Beatles in Portuguese).
In May 2011, my childhood dream came true: I went to Paul McCartney’s Concert from the Up and Coming Tour in João Havelange Olympic Stadium (a.k.a. Engenhão) in Rio de Janeiro, my hometown. It was a magnificent spectacle that I’ll keep on my mind and in my heart.
In July 2011, I’d heard about an upcoming concert to dream about: Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band would come to Brazil in November to perform in six capitals, including Rio de Janeiro, for the first time in South America. Immediately, I bought tickets for me and my friend Célio Silva in the Tickets for Fun website. During the online purchase, I was assured by Citibank Hall management, located in Via Parque Mall, that the venue was disabled friendly, with areas and appropriated equipment for the physically handicapped. I’ve waited anxiously for more than three months for that special day to come, when my idol, the drummer of the greatest rock band of all times would perform in my town.
Unfortunately, on November 15th, my friend and I had been through a horror night, a real torture session in the Ringo Starr concert at Citibank Hall. In spite of what they have announced and assured me, Time for Fun, company in charge of Tickets for Fun and responsible for the event production and the management of Citibank Hall, haven’t complied with the expected. Célio and I went through a lot of trouble to overcome the obstacles of a concert hall with no accessibility, no equipment and no adequate space for a wheelchair user.
After being forbidden by the security guard of Via Parque Mall from taking shelter under the marquee to protect myself from the wind and rain that poured down in Rio that afternoon, and consequently getting completely soaked, from head to toe; After being embarrassed and dangerously carried back and forth through the stairs; After being disrespected and ignored by the staff; Ultimately, after being criminally humiliated in every way – they put me in an improvised place, surrounded by a fence. I had no choice but watching the concert through a blocked view from the stage. I was able to see only a third part of it. To sum up this tragedy, in a sadist and terrorist act, the management didn’t allow my friend to stay with me in that designated area, even though he paid a full price ticket. He was supposed to protect me and help me pushing the wheelchair.
This is just one more intolerable and criminal episode from many others that victimize me and every disabled person in the Rio de Janeiro city and in Brazil, where our citizenship rights are often unpunished, ignored or disrespected, with the connivance of the authorities. I’ve notified in details the management of Time for Fun in São Paulo about the savagery that happened with me and all I’ve got was a promise that they would analyze the situation in the future to verify the possibility of refunding the tickets and also a simple, despicable, and innocuous written apology. On the other hand, the only phone number available to contact the management of Via Parque Mall, employer of the security guard who didn’t allow a disabled person to get shelter from the rain, does not work.
Despite the violence that I’ve been through, the Ringo’s concert in Rio de Janeiro was excellent, as it was expected. I’m surely affected by everything that I‘ve been through. It felt like a slap on the face. I’m still very sad and disappointed with the violence and fraud, and the criminal treatment that I got from Time for Fun and from the Via Parque administration. I’ve never been through such an embarrassing and infamous situation in my entire life.
Rio de Janeiro City Hall continues issuing opening permits to concert halls, restaurants, shops, theatres and other establishments, even though the access or fruition of the physically handicapped is denied. Disabled are not welcomed in these places, because they are never taken into consideration or treated as true citizens. These establishments have their activities “legalized “, they are “allowed” to discriminate and punish the disabled in wheelchairs. Actually, the “human disabled” are those owners and the authorities who legitimate these establishments, allowing their absurd, uncouth, deficient and illegal functioning.
These criminal acts, such as the aggression that I’ve suffered at Citibank Hall, deny the free accessibility and the basic and simple rights of citizenship for the wheelchair users. I’ve always denounced those acts to Brazilian Government Agencies that are responsible to enforce compliance with the disabled rights and its inspection, as well as to the private entities, that are supposed to take care of this matter, but nothing seems to cause any effect or consequence.
It is deplorable and unimaginable that in the 21st Century, the United Nations celebrates thirty-six years of the Disability Rights Act in which Brazil is signatory. And we annunciate that our country has a so called “Citizen“ Constitution and so many laws that guarantee the rights of thousands of physically disabled, wheelchair users, which precepts and rules are usually ignored and unfulfilled, in a shameful demonstration of a shattered citizenship.
(*) Researcher, historian and music critic.