I read with interest this week the disappointing, but sadly unsurprising, findings of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee about the lack of investment being made by large football clubs into improving access to their grounds for wheelchair users.
The findings of the Committee are clear and uncompromising and are probably best summarised with the following extract:
"It is very clear that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not given priority to sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have received."
It was heartening to see that the report highlighted the excellent commitment of Derby County and Tranmere Rovers, Wrexham and Egham Town, but it’s clear that – when clubs the scale of Liverpool, Chelsea and Watford are likely to miss the deadline for access improvements the Premier League promised would be in place this year – there’s still a lot of work to be done.
At Whizz-Kidz we’ve been keeping an eye on the issue of access to sporting venues for some time; the legacy of the 2012 Olympics notwithstanding, we know from the many young people we work with that access is not what it should be and – as we commented on last year – negative attitudes to disabled spectators still endure in those stadiums that can be accessed.
We look forward to seeing these improvements, and hope that disabled fans will not continue to be out in the cold when it comes to supporting their teams.
On the subject of accessibility, Whizz-Kidz has had better news closer to home; the new ticket office and entrance hall to Victoria station, a mere stone’s throw from our HQ, has finally opened. Although improvement works to our local station are still ongoing, when they are complete in 2018, the station will – for the first time – be step free and accessible to wheelchair users.
This is great news for the many young people who visit us at Whizz-Kidz HQ, and we’re eagerly looking forward to these works being completed. The Mayor of London is demonstrating a real commitment to improving access to the tube for wheelchair users, and we hope he continues to show this commitment throughout his administration.
With trains and travel very much front of mind, this week I travelled to meet with Big Lottery Fund in Birmingham to discuss our plans for 2017. Our partnership with BLF has enabled us to take our services to thousands of disabled children and young people, and inspire them to realise and achieve their true ambition through our services and campaigning activities. This year will be no different, and I look forward to sharing with you our exciting plans for this year in the near future.
Last, but not least, I shared a video with you all last week about my own personal #NoLimitz moment: I’m about to begin adaptive skiing lessons. This is something I’ve wanted to do for some time – and it’s thanks to nine months’ preparation work with my amazing trainer Fraser Smith (at Pure Gym, Victoria – which is also totally accessible to wheelchair users) that this is possible. I am really looking forward to this new adventure, and will keep you all updated as to how I’m getting on.
I’ll be blogging regularly from now on, to share Whizz-Kidz’s views on the issues affecting disabled people in the UK, and to keep you updated on my work.
Until next time,
PS. At the time of publication, we saw the Supreme Court had ruled on Doug Paulley’s case on wheelchair users’ access to buses. You can see our statement on this hugely important issue here.