Friday June 10 sees the opening ceremony and first fixture of Euro 2016. Ahead of the tournament, much of the conversation has revolved around team sheets, security concerns and, of course, who will emerge victorious (our money is on England crashing out after on penalties in the Quarter Final).
But there’s another important topic not getting anywhere near the same amount of coverage in the build-up: accessibility for the disabled and less mobile.
As a nation, we actually attend more games and sporting events than any other country in the world. In 2012, the Olympic venues were widely praised for their accessibility, but other stadiums and venues can be an issue. Many people are left with no other option but to turn up very early to grab a wheelchair space. Others find that they can’t get inside the venue at all. Surveys approximate that around a third of the disabled population will never travel abroad and take part in day excursions because of inaccessible venues, transport and services.
So how does the Euro 2016 tournament stack up when it comes to disabled access? There will of course be plenty of TV coverage, but what about those people who want to cheer their team on in France? Luckily, one organisation has taken it upon themselves to improve access not just for the Euro 2016 tournament, but for football across Europe.
CAFE: Centre for Access to Football in Europe
More than 80 million people in the EU are considered disabled, which is the equivalent of the populations of Belgium, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic combined. As associate partners of UEFA, CAFE are dedicated to improving access to footballing events across Europe for these individuals. They have in the past produced an ‘Access for All’ good practice guide, aimed at providing a benchmark for what stadiums and venues across Europe should be trying to provide.
As a result of CAFE’s work, many stadiums have added accessible facilities and services including:
- Accessible information in braille, large print and audio
- Accessible signage at entrances
- Lifts, disabled parking and specific drop-off points
- A choice of accessible seating areas for disabled fans in all areas of the stadium, so that fans can sit alongside friends and family.
Another initiative implemented as a result of the work of CAFE is the use of audio descriptive commentary for blind and partially sighted fans. With all surrounding and significant visual information described, including team strips and players’ emotions, the visually impaired can take a seat in the stadium and enjoy the game to the fullest extent.
Accessibility at Euro 2016
CAFE have stepped up their campaign in time for the Euro 2016 tournament. They have spent the build-up working with local organising committees, the French Football Federation and non-governmental organisations to provide and encourage good accessibility and inclusion practices both before and during the tournament.
They also have dedicated pages with extensive details for every host city and stadium, including travel and transport information, relevant contacts, accommodation information and even restaurants. If you are heading out to Euro 2016, it’s certainly worth checking this information out so that you can see what you might need to do in order to fully enjoy your experience.
Around 40% of the population are restricted by limited mobility, so the work of organisations like CAFE is vital in making sure these people are just as able to attend and enjoy sporting and entertainment events. Hopefully, the not too distant future will see every venue and stadium take on board the ‘Access For All’ good practice guide.