Skip to content
This website uses cookies to help us understand the way visitors use our website. We can't identify you with them and we don't share the data with anyone else. Find out more in our privacy policy.

Venture Down The Left Blog: Stadium Accessibility – A Fan’s Perspective

Blog post reproduced from Aston Villa Fan Site – ‘Venture Down the Left’

Not long after the end of our diabolical season, some Lower North Stand season ticket holders were informed that during the summer certain sections of seating would be removed to make stadium accessibility easier for disabled fans.Surprising to many but sadly not to me, the outpouring of anger, particularly on twitter was fairly widespread for a good few days.  Some of the comments bordered on the insane to the downright distasteful. A few comments in particular stood out ‘But what if a football comes flying towards them?’ and not forgetting a personal favourite of mine ‘whatever happened to equal rights?, this is downright disgraceful!’ I even got involved with one of those egg characters on Twitter who apparently had a ‘disabled aunt’ (turns out he didn’t) telling me in no uncertain terms that the disabled were lucky to have the amount of spaces in the Trinity Road stand already and shouldn’t warrant anymore, although he used much more industrial language and interesting spelling to try and get his point across which he failed miserably in doing.Which brings me to write this article for VDTL. As a wheelchair user and season ticket holder for 27 years in various areas of the ground, I thought I’d like to share some of the experiences and challenges that I and thousands of other supporters like myself up and down the country face on a regular match day.Many of you may or may not know that after the Hillsborough disaster the official report made a number of recommendations, the most obvious one being the introduction of all seater stadiums. Another one of the many recommendations was, and I quote, was to provide “proper facilities for all disabled people.”  Stadiums were legally forced to give up a certain percentage of seats and spaces for those with disabilities depending on the size of the ground.  Sadly for many years, Aston Villa have been unable to provide the correct amount of accessible seating set out by the report which I will come to later, but first I’d like to start from when I started to attend matches.Back when I started attending games in the late 1980’s, there wasn’t much of a dedicated ticketing department for Villa’s disabled supporters.  It was a case of rocking up to the ground on the day or either ringing up or make a visit midweek to the ticket office.  You couldn’t even buy a season ticket at that point either.  That didn’t come into effect until the early 1990’s if memory serves me correctly.  As for facilities on offer, the word basic springs to mind but it was a decent view all the same.Back then we were all housed in the corner of the Trinity Road and North Stand where the Corner Flag restaurant now sits.  It was never a massive area and you always had to get there early to guarantee a front row spot. It was best described as a glorified bullpen but it was under the roof. It was also close to the players tunnel and the dressing rooms were directly behind so if the windows were even slightly open you could hear the half time dressing down!Things remained that way at least in regards to the facilities on offer, until the Holte End was rebuilt, when a new and improved area for wheelchair users was created in the corner underneath the video screen.  This, for me, was my favourite spot of all the places I’ve sat at Villa Park. To be so close to the ‘Holte Army’ was something very special indeed and you really did feel part of it.  In the old Trinity Road stand, you felt like an afterthought.Also, this is when the ticket office was restructured and disabled fans finally had a dedicated department and contact as season tickets were launched and more and more tickets for away games and accessible coaches became available too.It was around the time that news filtered through that the Trinity Road Stand would be demolished and a group of supporters including myself got together and created the disabled supporters trust (AViDS for short). The hope was to liaise with the club and architects in how, and what, they were going to provide in relation to wheelchair spaces, facilities at concessions and everything else that comes with it.  So, we reached out to Doug Ellis and the architects charged with designing the new Trinity Road stand to see if we could come on board and at least have our say with how the new accessible area within the new stand may look.  It was around the time that the new Disability Discrimination Act for Stadiums came into effect (DDA) which set in stone what should be expected of new builds from that point onwards, so as a group we felt that everything was on our side.Fortunately it was, Deadly Doug and the architects were only too happy for us to voice our hopes and concerns. Shortly before the final plans were released, an agreement had been struck to allow the whole length of the lower tier be given up for wheelchair supporters, lower counters at concessions and better toilet facilities.  It wasn’t an easy decision for Ellis and the architects to agree to as they had to re-draw the plans for the lower tier including the removal of 3 rows of seats in order to comply with sightline regulations of 1.3m.There is now a dedicated group of stewards that are always on hand if assistance is needed at home as well as away matches as a few always travel with us on the accessible coaches. Currently home supporters have 74 spaces for wheelchair users available to them. 8 spaces for wheelchair users can be found in the home section for away supporters.NB: Under existing minimum standards for accessible stadia, the club should have 214 wheelchair spaces (182 home and up to 32 away). 75% of these should be elevated positions and the remaining 25% pitchside.Whilst I’m no longer involved with AViDS, since their initial objectives have now been achieved, I know that consultations with the club about how another area could be incorporated in the existing North Stand in the future are well in advance. The hope is to get this pushed along quickly now that the takeover taken place.  Hopefully looking much further ahead the possibility of a new North Stand, steps will be taken to ensure that Aston Villa FC fully comply with regulations.From: Venture Down the Left11.07.16