Brighton & Hove Albion are expanding their support for fans who have a disability by launching a new scheme to make it easier for fans to attend matches.
The American Express Community Stadium is already one of the leading grounds in the country in terms of access and facilities. It has 185 wheelchair spaces; 700 easy access seats and more than 80 accessible toilets – including a Changing Places wet-room complete with hoist.
Now the club is adding to its existing offering by launching a new scheme that makes it easier for people with a hidden disability attending the match to easily identify themselves to club staff should they need any assistance, without having to give an explanation of the nature of their disability. Staff can then support that fan in the appropriate way.
The hope is the club’s hidden disability scheme will make it far easier for fans with autism, hearing impairments or other similar conditions to enjoy watching their heroes in action.
It is believed the Albion are among the first clubs in the country to provide such a service. Exact details of the scheme are not being publicised, but fans that would benefit will be given something to bring to matches that can be shown to staff should the need arise.
The football club worked closely with its official charity, Albion in the Community (AITC), to design the new hidden disability scheme and as part of that ongoing collaboration, club staff will complete AITC’s disability awareness training during the 2017/18 season.
Paul Brackley, AITC’s disability manager, praised the club for its commitment to making the stadium as accessible as possible. He said, “I think this is a great initiative which demonstrates the care and attention the club are taking in ensuring every fan has the best possible matchday experience and we have been delighted to support this process.
"The fact that a fan with a hidden disability can safely identify themselves to staff without the need to explain themselves is a real positive and could make a big difference for an individual, particularly if it is in a moment of ‘crisis’ for them. I hope the scheme is successful and more clubs follow suit.”
The Albion are also inviting fans with a hidden disability, such as autism, to a sensory friendly hour at the club shop between 9am and 10am on Saturday 11th November. TV screens will be turned off, numbers of shoppers restricted and lighting will be kept low.