Disability Sport Travel

Attending sporting events with a disability

27th October 2019

I love going to watch games to cheer on my local football and rugby league teams (Leeds United and Leeds Rhinos) home and away. I have also attended other events such as Wimbledon and Paralympic Swimming World Championships (in Glasgow and London). 

However, having my Cerebral Palsy (CP) and visual impairment (VI) can make things more tricky and the need to think about accessibility, which is what this blog post is going to look into.

Football

I used to have a season ticket at Leeds with my Dad, where we sat at the front of the East stand. I used to take a small radio and headphones with me so I was able to get the match commentary, or Dad, my boyfriend Sam or my brother Jake would tell me what is going on so I could follow the game. Sometimes it can be hard to hear my radio or the reception isn’t very good which can be frustrating. I find it difficult to tell which player is which (unless they are close by I can see their name and number on their shirt) – all I can see is 11 people in white v 11 of the opposite team. I also find it hard to see where the ball is, so knowing what is going on really helps!

I have been to watch other teams – Watford, MK Dons, West Ham (at their old ground), Huddersfield and Chesham. Even though I am not always able to see what is going on if there is a good atmosphere from the crowd I can often tell what has happened from cheers around me and people’s reactions.

Rugby League

Headingley Stadium (home of the Rhinos) has recently had some work done to it to allow for the South Stand to have seats and standing for supporters. I have sat in the North stand for a few games, and have been in the South stand before the work took place.

Like football, I need someone to tell me what is going on, although I can tell by the reactions from the crowd.

I have been to watch the Rhinos away too, going to Wakefield, Castleford, Hull KR and I have been to Newcastle twice to watch games at the Magic Weekend. A few of the grounds for away fans have no seats, so that means standing for 80 plus minutes on the terrace. This can cause me a lot of pain when I am stood for a long time. 

Tennis

Although I am not a huge fan of tennis, I was invited to go in July 2018 with Sam and his Mum and Dad. I remember it being *very* hot, 30 degrees at some points of the day.

We had tickets for Centre Court and Court 1 between the four of us so we could go in and out of matches and have a wander around the grounds, which was good as we weren’t in one spot for too long. 

I was able to see most of the games, as we were quite close to the action. Although one thing that was frustrating was I couldn’t rely on Sam to tell me what was happening as needed to be silent when they were in play. I was able to judge when a player had won a point due to the cheers of the crowd.

Swimming

Just last month, Sam and I attended the finals of the Paralympic Swimming World Championships at the Aquatic Centre, part of the Olympic Park in London.

We saw some great races including Great Britain win the Women’s 4x100m Relay, 

Our seats were in line with the middle of the pool so could get a great view of all the action. They had announcements of each race and who was taking part and in which lane so it helped me follow it better and commentary throughout the races. There were also big screens to watch all the action from. 

Travelling to the events

Getting to all these events has to be planned in advance, looking at the best way to get there but without too much walking. 

When going to the football with Dad, he would drive us both and park about a 10-minute walk from the ground.  It would often be busy before and after the game with all the other supporters so I would need dad to help guide me.

Going to Castleford v Leeds Rhinos we got the coach from outside Headingley stadium which took us right to the ground and we then got the coach back afterwards too. We didn’t have to walk far at all or worry about finding the ground. 

We got the train from Leeds to Wakefield Kirkgate and then it was about a 20-minute walk to their ground for Wakefield v Leeds.  

When travelling to the events in London (the swimming and Wimbledon) we got the train and the underground. I had got the routes on my phone so I could remember where to go via an app, and the trains we used had audio announcements and visual cues – such as telling you where the train was headed and the next stop. When we got to our destination, it was usually a short walk from the station to the venue.

When doing these journeys, I was always with someone so I wouldn’t have to worry about it being unfamiliar.

Finally, these are some things that help me and might help others with a disability when attending sports events:

  • I have to attend events with someone else to guide me safely due to the unfamiliarity of surroundings and the potential for it to be busy. I will always use my long cane so people are aware I can’t see very well and I might need assistance if necessary. 
  • Football and rugby clubs often offer radio sets to listen to commentary during the game (not tried before but useful as don’t have to rely on others). There can be information about this on the club’s website. 
  • Booking accessibility tickets requires proof of disability (such as Personal Independence Payment) to be sent to the club in advance and to ring up each time you want to book tickets for a match (no online option means this can be more time consuming).

If you attend any sports events with a disability, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Ella x

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