As sports clubs in the UK strive to become more accessible for disabled fans it is important to bear in mind that less than 8% of disabled people are wheelchair users.
Most disabled people have non-visible disabilities, and it is thought that up to 30% of the population may have neurodiverse conditions, with many undiagnosed. These conditions include, but are not limited to, autism, ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, and Tourette’s syndrome.
The huge spectrum of each of these conditions means it is almost impossible to anticipate and cater for every individual’s needs. This makes the position for stadium managers – with an anticipatory duty to make reasonable adjustments for disabled people under the Equality Act 2010 – very difficult.
As part of the Accessible Stadia Guide re-write it became very clear early on that there is a shortage of research and guidance available on this topic. We wanted to include some advice and recommendations for fans with neurodiverse conditions into the new edition and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) offered to fund a research project for us carried out by Britain’s largest social research agency, NatCen.
Ruth Hopkins, General Manager at Level Playing Field said at the time the project was launched in January this year: “We know that with the best of intentions in the absence of information, assumptions are often made, and we want to provide clubs and service providers with some clear and tangible guidance to ensure an inclusive, safe, and enjoyable environment for everyone. The importance of Sensory Rooms for many (now a feature at so many clubs) cannot be underestimated, but we know they are only a solution for one small cross-section of the neurodiverse spectrum. The best way to do the research is by speaking to representative organisations and to fans themselves and NatCen are very experienced in gathering this type of information.”
The research project is now well underway, and we were delighted with the number of applications received. Sadly, it was not possible to accept everyone at the time, but we still hope to engage with those people when we share the findings and start to draft our recommendations later in the year.
LPF is grateful to the SGSA for their help and support throughout this project.
Martyn Henderson, Chief Executive of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, said: “We are pleased to fund this important primary research as part of our ongoing commitment to improve evidence in relation to spectator safety. Ensuring that sports grounds are safe and accessible for people with neurodiverse conditions is important to SGSA and we look forward to the outcomes of the research and future collaboration with Level Playing Field.”
The final report is due to be published in Summer 2021 and will be used primarily to inform the new Accessible Stadia Guide.
Applications to participate in the research are now closed.