Today is the EFL's Disabled Day of Action where the work of clubs' disabled organisations is highlighted.
We asked Barbara Robinson and Chris Cheshire of the Crawley Town DSA to tell us about what the club does to make watching the Reds a pleasurable experience for disabled fans, home and away.
Our Disabled Supporters’ Association was formed in 2014 at the invitation of our then CEO Michael Dunford. Following a survey, we soon had 27 paid up members, including some carers.
We first set about looking at the physical environment, in and around the stadium, and made a wish list for improvements which we discussed with the Club.
They have been supportive of us throughout and took note of our suggestions, making improvements that include:
- Improving the ramped entrance to Redz Bar, and also the route out of the adjacent car park on to a bridge over a stream. It used to have uneven steps and was badly lit but is now ramped, surfaced and well lit.
- Introducing a professional Audio Description (AD) Commentary for our visually impaired fans and extending it to away fans. The service is staffed by volunteers who are recruited and trained by Alan March Sport. It is widely praised by all those who use it, both home and away supporters.
- Upgrading the signage on accessible toilets to acknowledge that not all disabilities are visible.
- Providing additional accessible parking bays and making them available to book by blue badge holders who are also season ticket holders. The Club does not charge blue badge holders to park and this extends to away fans too.
We currently have 31 paid-up members including some carers. The disabilities cover a whole range of physical and mental issues. The youngest person is mid 20s and the oldest is approaching his 96th birthday! Members pay £5 for the season which is used to sponsor a player’s shirt at a reduced rate, courtesy of the club. All names are entered into a draw to win the shirt at the end of the season.
We are invited to attend a couple of training sessions each season and have photos taken with the whole squad and also with our sponsored player.
There are regular meetings over the season, usually starting with one in Summer to wrap up the last season and make plans for the coming one. This is followed by our AGM in September and in December/January to organise our New Year dinner which happens in mid-January. Then a couple more meetings in the second half of the season. We have raffles which raise some extra funds and have bought some ponchos that can be handed out on wet days if anyone needs them.
One of our members is now employed by the club to get refreshments for disabled people in the raised wheelchair area on matchdays, who are unable to get their own. This came about following discussion at a meeting and the club agreed to fund it.
The club opens Redz Bar for us to hold our evening meetings and the Bar Manager is there to serve us. We are not charged for using the venue. Likewise, we’ve held events in the Stadium Suite at no cost – these have been for AD training and Level Playing Field regional events as and when necessary.
We made a video of what it’s like for a disabled person to visit the stadium and updated the disabled access information in the online guide to the stadium. Both of these are on the club website here:
We work closely with the Community Foundation and are also members of Crawley Community and Voluntary Service (CCVS) as a means of reaching into the wider community. To this end, we have also produced a promotional leaflet, encouraging others to join us.
If you are interested in becoming a member of the DSA please call Barb on 07434 402972 or email firstname.lastname@example.org