The SFA recently hosted the inaugural Disability Access Officer Workshop where a range of different stakeholders were in attendance, including representatives of thirty different SPFL clubs and the Scottish Disabled Supporters’ Association. This informative and insightful event was organised by Brian Mann and Laura Anderson from the SFA Licensing department and was held at Hampden Park. Supporters’ Direct Scotland were in attendance to find out what it was all about.
Why appoint a DAO?
Article 35bis in the 2015 edition of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations requires clubs to appoint a Disability Access Officer (DAO), who is responsible for improving access for people with disabilities (both on matchdays and non-matchdays) and ensuring continued progress in this vital area.
First up we heard from Jochen Kemmer – Project Manager at CAFE (Centre for Access to Football in Europe) who explained why access and inclusion matter. “Disabled people are the largest minority group and it can be fairly assumed that many of the one billion disabled people living in the world today will be football fans – the world’s most popular sport.” He went on to say that many stadia around the world are not yet accessible and inclusive and that they are working along with other stakeholders to help change that and to increase disability awareness using the unique power of football.
We then heard from Yvonne Wemyss (Auditor with Access Alba) who gave us some background on The Equality Act 2010, explaining the legal situation regarding differing types of discrimination, offering up case studies as examples. Yvonne said, “Instead of asking how much improving accessibility will cost us, ask what it will cost us if we don’t?”. Yvonne talked us through what we might expect from an access audit, explaining examples of good and bad practice, and offered some helpful tips on how to engage with disabled people.
After a short lunch spent networking we received an excellent case study presentation from Jaimie Dorward (Bradford City FC Disability Liaison Officer). Jaimie explained that she had learned about some of the challenges disabled supporters can face in accessing football when her autistic son took an interest in football back in 2011 at the age of 9. She started football coaching and organising events as a volunteer, before going on to set up the BCFC Disabled Supporters’ Association in 2015. In March 2016 Jaimie was appointed Disability Liaison Officer and she helped get the BCFC Disability Volunteer Programme off the ground later that year.
The day ended with us receiving some useful handouts covering a range of topics, including disability etiquette and access audit information and also a copy of the Disability Access Officer Handbook. The whole workshop was a valuable exercise for sharing best practice and for learning more about the function itself from DAOs already performing in the role.