Muscular Dystrophy UK has updated its Move the Goalposts national survey of stadium accessibility for young disabled people, and published its suggestions of how stadiums can improve access for disabled people. The report also makes clear how a full-day stadium visit is a valued experience for disabled people, making them excellent customers of club and venue.
Half of young disabled sports fans are forced to sit away from their friends and family at live games in Britain, while others have been shut-out altogether, according to the survey, It found that disabled sports fans faced a distinct disadvantage in attending live events due to stadia layout and accessibility. Despite their clear passion, and with disabled households having a spending power of over £200 billion*; the charity is concerned that disabled people are being shut-out and put off from sports venues across Britain.
The UK-wide report finds:
- Half have had to sit away from family and friends.
- Some disabled fans face intimidation and feel in danger by having to sit with opposing fans (one in three had to do so)
- Nearly nine out of ten feel disadvantaged by the ticket booking system.
- Shocking accounts of disabled fans forced to sit in the rain, with over half having had to sit in an unsheltered seating area
- One in four say that venue access, including parking, is the number one reason for not attending more sporting events.
- Almost half call for accessible toilets to be improved.
Harriet Butler, 24, Worcestershire, a wheelchair user said:
I’m such a huge sports fan. Going to cricket, football and rugby is a big part of who I am. The whole day out is a great release and occasion. You just can’t beat the excitement of a good match. Sadly though, disabled people like me are at a huge disadvantage in enjoying the games we love.
I’m almost always split up from family and friends as there is only one space for a carer. Sport for me is all about the day out, being together, sharing the highs and lows. Ticketing too is awkward with a costly, understaffed helpline. Sometimes disabled sports fans like me are left feeling like an afterthought when we love sport as much as anyone else.
The charity is calling for:
- Accessibility to be placed at the heart of all future venue design and renovation.
- The establishment of a sports fan access group to regularly to discuss necessary changes
- Wheelchair users to have the choice of sitting in larger groups, instead of pairs.
- Venues to liaise with disability groups including Trailblazers to discussing improving the experience of disabled sports fans.
- Venues to improve accessible toilets and boost the number of disabled parking spaces.
Mitchell Coles, 24, Bristol, a wheelchair user said:
Football is a big part of my life. There is nothing better than supporting the team you love when a goal goes in. Some modern stadia do really well at accommodating disabled people. Others lack the facilities and it seems as if they don’t care, which is tragic because we want to support as much as anyone.
I’m always let down by not being able to sit with the people I go with, particularly my brother. Sport is all about the day out with company, it would be great to feel part of the crowd and action. We just want to enjoy the game on a level with everyone else.
Tanvi Vyas, Manager, Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazers said:
It is disappointing that four years after the big promises of a Paralympic legacy, so many disabled people are clearly frustrated, limited and let down by their sporting experience. That they feel shut-out from events they love due to venue layout and accessibility is a national disgrace.
If venues recognised not only the passion of disabled sports fans, but the two hundred billion spending power of disabled households, then everyone would gain from better inclusion. We urge the sports industry to put accessibility at the heart of stadium design and renovation, and to engage with charities like ours so every sports fan, regardless of disability, can follow their passion.
*Mark Harper, Minister of State for Disabled People (July 2007 to May 2010)