It is hard to not be aware of sport this month- the World Cup, Wimbledon, F1 British Grand Prix, The Open. But if you have any disability, what are the chances of you being able to attend any of these, relax, and enjoy the day safe in the knowledge there are suitable facilities for you?
In a report by the Government(*) into inclusive and accessible stadia/ spectator sports, disabled spectators were asked what aids and adaptations they would require- better and more accessible toilets was one of the top three categories.
It is so logical, but so often overlooked. It’s all well and good providing accessible/ wheelchair seating, but if people are there for any amount of time, they ARE going to need to use the toilet. FACT. And, as we have said before, that means giving people the space, for themselves, perhaps a wheelchair and possibly a carer, and appropriate additional facilities eg a hoist, changing bench.
Yet a general comment from the clubs questioned was that, in terms of catering for disabled supporters, “other things can have a higher priority for club spend”.
Almost 20% of our population is disabled. But does that percentage translate correspondingly in sports spectators? With the myriad of problems to overcome if you have any limitation- booking tickets, getting to and from the venue, moving around within, commentary of the action, appropriate seating, and appropriate toilets, for the majority of disabled people, it’s just too much effort.
Under the Equality Act 2010, venues are required to make ‘reasonable adjustments’, including to the built environment. If that was made a priority, then more disabled people would be ABLE to enjoy a local, regional or national sports event.
There is a synergy here: make the venue more accessible, then more people can, and will come. Revenue will therefore increase, so the finance for continued improvements becomes available.
There is an old adage, traditionally from entrepreneurial business, that you have to spend money to make money. But it’s true. And it applies to any financial operation whether a community sports facility or a premier league club.
So next time you wonder how to increase your attendance figures, look at your accessibility: it’s a great starting point! If you HAVE taken some steps in this direction, then tell people about them, especially on your website: if people don’t know you have the facilities, how can they use them?
And if there are sporting events you want to attend, but can’t because of poor accessibility, then highlight the situation to the venue. If they don’t know there’s a problem, they can’t fix it…
(*) Department for Work & Pensions/ Department fir Culture Media & Sport The Inclusive & Accessible Stadia Report