Chris welcomes Premier League pledge to improve access for disabled supporters

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.

 

 

 

Thinking outside the box

Last Tuesday I took part in the debate considering the report of the Lords Communications Committee on Women in News and Current Affairs Broadcasting. The report was excellent, not least as a result of the superb stewardship of the Committee Chair, Lord Best. The picture painted by the report was not bright, a world far more reminiscent of Ron Burgundy than 21st Century Britain.  A world in which older women in particular find themselves at a severe disadvantage both on and off screen. It seems to me a scandal that so many older women in TV still feel that work dries up when they get to a certain age or when they have children; there are some women who have said they have had to get a facelift to maintain their TV career beyond fifty. Recently Anne Robinson asked what chance a female version of Evan Davis would have of securing that prestigious role? Where are the female Dimblebys, John Simpsons, Alastair Stewarts or Adam Boultons? What sort of message does the lack of their female counterparts send out to young women contemplating a career in television journalism? If young women don’t think they can have a fulfilling career in television that talent will go elsewhere. It’s a scandal that goes all the way to the top. Women, who make up half the viewers of television aren’t represented at board level at our major broadcasters in anything like the numbers they should be; the BBC executive board has two female executive directors, Channel 4 has one and that is it. The lack of diversity is not just a question of gender, last year, out of the 62 directors at the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Ofcom, only one was non-white and none were disabled. I welcome the fact that the industry itself has recognised that it has a problem and has committed to doing something about it; we have seen some ambitious plans published by BBC, Sky and C4. With Lord Hall at the helm of the BBC and David Abrahams at Channel 4, we have reasons to be positive going forward. However, this is not a new issue. Groups like Women in Film and Television, PACT, trade unions and Directors UK have been talking about this for decades and there has been very little movement.   That is why, in the debate, I called for two things: Firstly, all the main broadcasters must end the practice of unpaid internships. This patronage is both rife and rigging the system in favour of those who are wealthy and connected rather than those who are talented. This is not limited to the broadcast industry but the broadcast industry, if they addressed this could be a beacon of good practice and lead the way for the rest of our economy Secondly, I asked broadcasters and producers to follow new guidance just produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which I launched at the Edinburgh television festival two weeks ago It is worth paying tribute to my Rt Hon friend Ed Vaizey who enabled this project to get underway, he has demonstrated sustained commitment to driving the diversity agenda since arriving at DCMS. Entitled “Thinking outside the box”, the guidance was drawn up following extensive consultation with the industry, and provides clarity about the initiatives and practices that are permissible in law.  It busts common myths about barriers that exist and provides a series of case studies from the sector to encourage broadcasters, independent production companies and industry bodies to make it easier to boost diversity. Now we’ve produced this guidance, I believe there can be no more excuses for not taking meaningful action to improve the situation.  It is not just about doing the right thing, it is about getting the best creative and competitive edge.    

Campaign to increase diversity in broadcasting launched at Edinburgh International Television Festival

Chris was delighted to launch a new government-backed project aimed at unlocking economic and creative potential by increasing the diversity of people working in Britain’s television sector at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Friday 28th August.

The event was chaired by Trevor Phillips and Ed Vaizey, Culture minister, conceded that there was still “much, much more” to do on improving diversity in broadcasting.

The guide will provide expert legal guidance on what is permitted under the law for employers, commissioners and others working within the sector. The guidance will also  help broadcasters expand the talent pool from which they find the best candidates and will cover areas including employment, commissioning, broadcasting, programme making and procurement practices.

Thinking outside the box, EHRC diversity in broadcasting guidance.

House of Lords Debate

Diversity guidance to launch at festival

Guardian, UK TV risks being ‘knocked off its perch’ unless it improves diversity, say peer

Guardian, Ed Vaizey: Diversity in TV

Broadcast, Diversity; No More Excuses

EHRC Blog, Thinking Outside the Box

Broadcast, TV urged to scrap unpaid interns

Background on campaign

 

 

 

If you can’t stand, you can’t sit

Friday saw the 2nd reading of Lord Faulkner of Worcester’s Accessible Sports Grounds Bill.

Across the chamber there was support for what the Bill was seeking to achieve- reasonable access for disabled spectators to sports grounds, not least those of football’s Premier League.  I was delighted to take part in the debate on the Bill.

It is an excellent Bill, a straightforward Bill, a Bill which demonstrates many things, not least Lord Faulkner of Worcester’s long standing support for those who simply want to access sport.

The mechanism for achieving this aim simple, that clubs failing to meet the minimum guidelines would not be licenced with a safety certificate and so be unable to stage matches.

Just three of the 20 Premier League stadiums currently reach recommended spaces for wheelchair users. The Football Task Force, of which the Premier League was a part, said in 1998 that these numbers should apply to all grounds and these guidelines were then also outlined in the 2003 Accessible Stadia guide for new stadiums.

During the debate, I set out new cases of potential discrimination at some of our top flight clubs:

  •  Liverpool: During the last match of the season at Anfield, there was a planned pre-match celebration in recognition of Steven Gerrard’s last game for the club. A small group of fans displayed a large banner in front of disabled fans which completely blocked their view of the pitch. When the disabled fans asked a steward to intervene, a fan became extremely abusive and violent. He said: ‘F9ck Off. I will punch your lights out. We will get all you wheelchairs out of this ground for good. I’m going to put you in the ground.’
  • Manchester United: In May, an elderly male, in his 80s with a walking stick and a male in his 20s who had a cast on his foot and was on crutches were refused to Old Trafford due to the walking stick/crutches they had. Manchester United stewards, who claimed they could be used as weapons, were dealing with the incident. The walking sticks/crutches were taken off them and given back at the end of the game, posing a significant health risk should there have been the need for an evacuation. A statement from a police liaison officer from the time questioned a complete lack of ‘common sense’ given it was obvious the individuals required these aids. It said: ‘to say they (the stewards) were unhelpful would be an understatement. The steward’s attitude and their lack of helpfulness were astounding.’

I have no desire to necessarily single out the stewards, although I would be very interested in the diversity and inclusion training they received.

  • Chelsea: Despite its wealth, the club has recently told its disabled supporters that there is no intention to make further improvements until the stadium redevelopment is completed in 2022 as it can’t move existing fans from their preferred seat. In response, a Chelsea disabled fan who was too scared to be named, said: “This is completely unacceptable and the club never seems to have a problem in moving fans to make way for new hospitality and media spaces.”

Poor access and discrimination against disabled fans has tarnished the reputation of football for too long.  Unless action is taken soon to address the glacial speed of progress, major sponsors should think long and hard about whether it remains ethical to continue with  their relationship with football.  Following the debate I have written to all Premier League sponsors and broadcast partners to seek their views on this matter.

The time for the same old feeble excuses has passed, particularly hiding behind the age of stadiums to explain inaction.

It seems clear that, when there is a need to bring in new technology, more camera positions, space for different rights holders, changes are made in a trice. Many stadiums have been virtually rebuilt from the inside out, with significant additions to VIP, hospitality and media areas.

If you can make the Cambridge college that I went to accessible, with buildings that date back to the 15th century, it is entirely possible to solve this problem. It’s time for Premier League clubs to show leadership and stop treating disabled fans like 2nd class citizens.

Football is our national sport.  Sadly, all too often, for many disabled supporters, the beautiful game is an ugly, ugly experience.

Time to stop sharing?

Lord Holmes on BBC Breakfast - interview on Exhibition Road - onscreen "Lord Holmes of Richmond, Report author"

Today I have published detailed research into so called “shared space”.  This is the architectural conceit, the planning folly which proposes that the removal of kerbs, road markings, controlled crossings such as zebras and pelicans and so on leads to a better experience for all users of our streets.  To be clear this means no road or pavement, just space, buses and blind people, toddlers and trucks sharing this same space.  Unsurprisingly, the research findings do not support a sunny view of shared space.

 

Sixty-three per cent of respondents reported a negative experience of shared space. Even more worrying than that, thirty-five per cent said they actively avoided shared space, that’s over a third of people planned out of their local community, their local shops, their local support services.  This type of totalitarian planning would make even an old style Soviet feel some shame.  The research also indicated a significant under reporting of accidents in these shared spaces.

 

The findings are stark, the solution clear, an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes until thorough impact assessments can be conducted.  This must be combined with a central record of accident data including “courtesy crossings”, which must be defined and monitored.  There is also a need for updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.

 

Patrick McGloughlin, Secretary of State for Transport, when questioned by the Transport Select Committee on exactly this just before the end of the last parliament acknowledged that Government guidance on shared space must be improved stating,  “We need to review and update the guidance that we are giving” (Q.30)  I look forward to hearing more from Patrick McGloughlin on how that commitment is progressing

 

Has so called “shared space” achieved an inclusive experience for all, no, it most certainly has not.  Has it opened up our high streets, increased safety and usability, again, no it has not. Shared space is not a safe place nor a pleasant place, it has turned high streets into traffic free for alls, it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.

 

In the words of survey respondents, shared space is:

“Lethally dangerous” (Pedestrian)

“Absolute nightmare that I avoid if I can.” (Driver)

“Shared space is a false promise with poor delivery” (Cyclist)

Full Report

Two eyes in inclusion?

Please tweet using #stopsharedspace

 

 

 

Accidents by Design: The Holmes Report into Shared Space

Lord Holmes and Lottie at side of Exhibition Road as taxi passes
Lord Chris Holmes and Lottie in Exhibition Road surrounded by cars

Stuck in shared space on Exhibition Road

 

On Friday 1st July I published detailed research into so called “shared space”.  This is the architectural conceit, the planning folly, which proposes that the removal of kerbs, road markings, controlled crossings such as zebras and pelicans and so on leads to a better experience for all users of our streets.  To be clear this means no road or pavement, no safe space, buses and blind people, toddlers and trucks sharing the same space.  Unsurprisingly, the research findings do not support a sunny view of shared space.

Sixty-three per cent of respondents reported a negative experience of shared space. Even more worryingly, thirty-five per cent said they actively avoided shared space, that’s over a third of people planned out of their local community, their local shops, their local support services.  This type of totalitarian planning would make even an old style Soviet feel some shame.  The research also indicated a significant under reporting of accidents in these shared spaces.

The findings are stark, the solution clear, an immediate moratorium on all shared space schemes until thorough impact assessments can be conducted.  This must be combined with a central record of accident data including “courtesy crossings”, which must be defined and monitored.  There is also a need for updated Department for Transport guidance to enable local authorities to fully understand their obligations, not least in relation to the Equality Act.  

Has so called “shared space” achieved an inclusive experience for all? No, it most certainly has not.  Has it opened up our high streets, increased safety and usability? Again, no it has not. Shared space is not a safe place nor a pleasant place, it has turned high streets into traffic free for alls, it has caused confusion, chaos and catastrophe.

In the words of survey respondents, shared space is:

 “Lethally dangerous” (Pedestrian)

“Absolute nightmare that I avoid if I can.” (Driver)

“Shared space is a false promise with poor delivery” (Cyclist) 

Holmes Report on Shared Space

Shared-use streets a safety disaster says, ex-Paralympian, BBC News

Halt city ‘shared spaces’, says report by Lord Holmes, BBC News

Cars and pedestrians don’t mix well concludes study into shared space schemes, Independent

Chaos, Confusion and Catastrophe, Politics Home

Lord Holmes calls for immediate moratorium on ‘lethally dangerous’ shared space, Transport Monthly

Shared space schemes labelled dangerous in Lords report, Architects Journal

New Report calls for a moratorium on shared space crossings, Transport for All

Top Town shared spaces branded ‘dangerous’ and ‘Third World traffic free-for-alls’, Grimsby Telegraph

“Dangerous and Costly” shared spaces should be scrapped, Lord Holmes claims, Gloucester Citizen

Ex-Paralympian in call to end shared space crossings, Swindon Advertiser

Time to stop sharing?, Lord of the Blogs

Blurred Lines #Shared Spaces, Unity Law Report

IHE Response to Holmes Report

Daily Politics asks if ‘shared space’ is safe….

End of the road for white lines on highway, The Times

Please tweet using #stopsharedspace,

Lord Holmes and Lottie at side of Exhibition Road as taxi passes

Still stuck on Exhibition Road

 

 

TED Talk ‘Seeing isn’t believing’

Chris standing on red circle giving TED talk at TEDx Event

Chris was delighted to give a TED talk at a TEDx Event organised along the theme of Momentum; Moving Forward, Gaining Speed and Building Traction. Chris’s talk was titled ‘Seeing isn’t Believing’ as he explained how a working class kid from the Midlands got from an underperforming comprehensive school to Cambridge University, from a rundown 25 yard swimming pool to the gold medal podium at 4 Paralympic Games, from a terraced house to the House of Lords. For Chris this path was not guided by the light afforded by sight, that sight having departed, without notice, overnight. Vision instead of sight and a clear path firmly built on the bedrock of self belief.

Watch Chris’s TED talk

TEDx Whitehall Women

 

 

 

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