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A forum for disabled football supporters has been held at Derby County's Pride Park Stadium where discussions were held around improving disabled access to football stadiums in the United Kingdom. The forum was organised by Level Playing Field, a charity which looks to ensure every sports fan in the country has the same access to sporting events.
Representatives from football clubs in the Midlands attended the forum after Derby County supporter, Alex Steward told the BBC about how disheartening it was trying to follow her club around the country as a wheelchair user.
Steward listed problems relating to toilet access and obstructed views in the stadium. Explaining her frustrations surrounding disabled access to football stadiums, she said:
“When you are paying the same price to attend you just want to enjoy the football in the same way. Disabled fans don't want special treatment, we just want access to the same facilities and have the same experience.”
“We will always keep fighting”
The fans forum at Pride Park was attended by members of the Derby County Disabled Supporters' Club, who have recently invested £6,000 into buying headsets for blind supporters at Pride Park so they can access extra descriptive audio commentary while at the stadium.
Speaking at the forum, the Supporters' Club chairman, Gary Dempsey, said:
“I don't think there will be an end to the campaign, we will always be fighting, always trying to catch up. The end goal is that people with disabilities can come to a football match and enjoy it in the same way that everyone else enjoys it.
“Unfortunately there are barriers that need to be removed and we need to constantly keep on fighting those barriers, but whether it ever will end I really don't know.”
A key theme that was discussed at the forum was the notion that disabled fans have as much right as anyone else to attend football matches, and therefore disabled access to football stadiums needs to be improved. Echoing these thoughts, the Chair of Levelling Playing Field, Tony Taylor, said:
“What we're trying to get away from is the idea that there are minimum standards that we expect for disabled people. We want to go above and beyond that. Anyone who is non-disabled will expect the very best, and disabled fans have every right to do that too.”