Top of the league clubs: Derby County, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Egham Town; all have been named as examples of excellence in making their clubs truly welcoming of disabled supporters. You will note that none of these clubs are in the Premier League. In Sept 2015 the Premier League promised to make all clubs accessible to disabled people. The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report published today states that it’s “very clear” that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.” Given the examples above I would say it is clearly a question of will rather than resources and Greg Clarke of the Football Association agrees, telling the committee “that for the Premier League the problem was not money”. Football is our national sport, beloved by so many of us, and it needs to rediscover its moral compass. If not on its own then with some help. Both the commons committee and the Minister for Sport have said they would support legal action against clubs that miss the August deadline and Bill Bush, executive director at the Premier League spoke of fines of up to £25,000. I would urge both the Premier League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to use all means at their disposal to ensure that disabled supporters are no longer treated as second class citizens when they want to support their football team.
Chris’s letter to the Times: Football’s Failure
Watch Channel 4’s report: Are football stadia no go for disabled?
BBC Sport: Disabled access: Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement
Chris welcomes the Women and Equalities Committee’s decision to conduct an inquiry into disability and the built environment. The inquiry will ask whether more could be done to increase the accessibility and inclusivity of both new and existing properties and spaces. In particular they ask whether shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved. Chris did some filming with BBC Breakfast in Sloane Square and they also sent cameras to Poynton to draw attention to the inquiry. You can see Chris’s evidence here and follow the inquiry through the committee’s website.
The terms of reference for the inquiry include:
Design and management of the public realm
- Are the needs of all groups given adequate consideration in the design of streets, highways, parks and publicly accessible open spaces and in the provision of services such as public toilets?
- To what extent do shared space schemes in roads and highways cause barriers for disabled people and how can these be resolved?
- What opportunities are there for delivering greater accessibility and inclusivity alongside more age-friendly towns and cities, including liaison with the NHS?
The Times, “Shared spaces for drivers and pedestrians ‘are causing chaos'”, October 24th 2016.
Evening Standard, “Roads shared by pedestrians, cyclists and drivers ’cause chaos’, government report finds”, October 24th 2016.
Chris joined transport bosses in Manchester to formally launch new equipment on the city’s free Metroshuttle service. Chris was delighted to support the launch observing that the improvements are a fantastic way of ensuring the city’s transport network is more accessible.
The Department for Transport’s Green Bus Fund and Transport for Greater Manchester funded the 20 Optare low carbon buses that operate on the Manchester Metroshuttle routes. Transport for Greater Manchester paid for them to be retrofitted with brand new passenger information screens, making travel easier for passengers with visual or hearing impairments.
The 19-inch high-resolution screens provide automatic audio and visual announcements for passengers on aspects of the journey such as the route plan and the next stop, as well as places of interest and nearby businesses. The technology was fitted by contractors McKenna Brothers working with the charity Guide Dogs UK.
Chris was given a guided trip on one of the buses to experience the new technology for himself and he was delighted to congratulate Transport for Greater Manchester for the initiative which will mean people living with visual or hearing impairments can feel more confident in travelling independently. Chris has spoken in Parliament on the importance of talking buses during debates on the Bus Services Bill.
More than a third of Premier League clubs, including two of the richest teams in the world, will not have adequate facilities for disabled fans by August 2017. Chelsea, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Bournemouth are all set to miss an agreed deadline to bring their stadiums up to the minimum standards for disabled access, according to the disabled fans organisation Level Playing Field (LPF).
Last year, all Premier League clubs pledged to improve their stadium facilities for disabled supporters and increase the numbers of wheelchair user spaces by August 2017, as set out in the Accessible Stadia Guidance (ASG). However, in meetings with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which took the league to task last year over inadequate accessibility provisions, the Premier League has now acknowledged that many will miss the deadline.
Commenting on the lack of progress, Chris Holmes, EHRC Disability Commissioner said:
“All clubs agreed to make the minimum recommended improvements for disabled fans over two years. We are now at half-time, and for many teams, the performance is simply unacceptable.”
Chris welcomes the Premier League statement, which promises that all clubs will comply with the Accessible Stadia Guide by August 2017. There has been a long campaign to improve stadium facilities for disabled supporters and increase the numbers of wheelchair spaces, for years substantially fewer at most clubs than the numbers recommended in official guidance.
On Monday, the government published a deeply critical report about disabled people’s experience in sports stadiums. This came after years of campaigning by various organisations and supporters groups and as Lord Faulkner’s Accessible Sport Grounds Bill is considered in Westminster. Chris has taken part in the debates calling on the football community to “rediscover their moral compass.”
There was widespread praise in the House of Lords for the move by the Premier League but Chris urged the government to “monitor closely” the progress being made up to 2017.
BBC, Premier League clubs to make changes for disabled fans.
The Guardian, Premier League pledges to improve stadium facilities for disabled fans.
Telegraph, Premier League face the threat of losing sponsors over clubs’ inadequate provision for disabled fans.
Mirror, Paralympic swimmer Lord Holmes urges Premier League clubs to provide more seats for disabled fans.
Chris travelled to Doha to take part in the Definitely Able Conference held in the amazing surroundings of the Museum of Islamic Art. Sasol and the British Council, in partnership with Qatar Museums, partnered to organise the conference and accompanying ILHAM art exhibition. The two-day Definitely Able Conference addressed the theme of ‘together enabling inclusion’, which reflects the partners’ belief that through dialogue society can become more inclusive for the benefit of all. The conference brought together an audience of more than 200 stakeholders in the disabled community, the private and public sectors.
Sasol and the British Council work together to challenge perceptions about disability.
This summer the Equalities and Human Rights Commission have published a handy passport sized guide to your rights when you fly as a disabled traveller. Due to a legal loophole the rights we citizens enjoy on the ground in UK and EU countries are replaced by an outdated agreement known as the Montreal Convention when we board a plane. What this means for disabled travellers is that should anything go wrong in the air, or indeed airside when you have cleared check in, you will not be protected by the rights enshrined in domestic equality legislation. The passport guide has been produced to help travellers know what rights they do have and what measures they can take to make sure they have the smoothest journey possible. Read Chris’s blog on the subject..