MKDSA’s Disability Officers Jo & Jeff aka Burt & Ernie (it’s the hats!) are still active despite the season ending.
Recently they were invited by Level Playing Field to the Bescot Stadium, Walsall (it doesn’t sound right calling it The Poundland Stadium) to talk about the disabled fans’ away game experiences at an EFL Conference for Disability Liaison Officers (DLOs). This is their reflections on the Conference.
Excellent day, we would have liked to have seen DLOs from more Clubs. Sadly we learnt that although Clubs are required to name a DLO, the role is often given to someone with many other roles and DLOs often wfeel it is an uphill struggle to get improvements.
The Conference was part of the EFL’s 5-year Together Strategy to promote inclusion in all Clubs so that the fan base and workforce reflects the diversity of the Club’s local community. As it is estimated that nationally 1 in 5 people are disabled, this is the biggest minority group.
Whilst Stadium MK attracts much praise for its accessibility features, we know from our travels to Dons away games that this is not always so at all stadiums, regardless of which league it is. It was our experiences, good and bad, that we talked about at the Conference.
For example, the hassle when Clubs don’t send the away wheelchair user tickets with the rest of the tickets to the visiting Club, something which can be easily solved.
A reoccurring theme of the day was that the majority of disabled fans are not wheelchair users and many have hidden disabilities. Stewards need to be competent in meeting the needs of all disabled fans and one accessible loo in a stand is not enough!
Ironically the barriers faced by disabled fans were starkly highlighted as the Assistance Booking we had made to have ramps provided at the railway station across from the stadium, found us at a station with no step-free access!
On a more positive note, the presentations from Colostomy UK (with much praise for the recent installation of stoma friendly toilets at Stadium MK), RNIB and Tourettes Action UK (dispelling all the common myths) were excellent.
We learnt lots from the day to inform us in our role in the future and hope others learnt from our experiences. We believe a much needed and valuable conference that we would like to see repeated in the future.
Thank you to Jo and Jeff, a fantastic insight into the work they do. They will now feedback to the Football Club and make sure the club are aware of the latest developments and thinking and work with them to improve the facilities at StadiumMK and the matchday safety, welfare and overall experience of all those attendng events at StadiumMK.