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The most accessible sports venues in the UK

18th February 2015

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

Sport is a common interest of many people, and watching live games and supporting favourite teams is an experience everyone should get to enjoy. However, the government has recently called for a number of sport venues to make improvements as they do not currently provide suitable standards for those with disabilities, including people reliant on wheelchairs and home stairlifts. We’ve picked a selection of the most accessible sports venues in the UK, which aim to make watching live sport available to everyone.

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Purposely built for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics, this modern and innovative park has a variety of sports venues designed to offer high levels of accessibility, including the Copper Box Arena and London Aquatics Centre. Regarded as one of the most accessible parks in the UK, those with mobility issues are well catered for and can both watch and try out a number of sports at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

“The sporting excellence and community spirit showcased at London 2012 changed the way disability is viewed in the UK and abroad and the London Legacy Development Corporation has developed a Paralympic Legacy Programme to ensure this legacy is continued.

“The goal of the programme is to make sure that Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is an example of the best principles of accessibility and inclusive design, so that it can be enjoyed by everyone regardless of disability, age, gender, sexual orientation, race or faith, and that it celebrates the heritage of the Paralympics and encourages people to enjoy disability sport.

“As part of this programme, in March 2014 we were the proud winners of a Civic Trust Award and the Selwyn Goldsmith Award for Universal Design in recognition of the inclusive design of both the Timber Lodge Cafe and Tumbling Bay Playground. People with disabilities make up one third of the staff of the Timber Lodge Cafe, which is operated by the Camden Society, on behalf of the Legacy Corporation.”

-          Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

St Mary’s Stadium

Disabled fans of the Saints are some of the best catered for supporters, as the Southampton Football Club can provide assistance from ticket purchase right through to the experience of the game. St Mary’s Stadium boasts 156 wheelchair spaces, with 98 seats for people with visual impairments, which include headsets and radio for a full match commentary.

Disabled supporters are also provided with a dedicated telephone number, as well as a Disabled Liason Officer to help assist with any questions, queries, or requests. On the day, there will also be Accessibility Stewards throughout the stadium, with free enabler tickets available for those who require a carer. Blue Badge holders can also make use of the dedicated drop off/pick up points, and disabled parking can be purchased seasonally for regular visitors.

“At Southampton Football Club we are committed to ensuring all visitors to St Mary’s Stadium have the facilities and assistance they need to enjoy their visit. Our Staff are easily accessible and keen to help.”

-          Southampton Football Club

White Hart Lane

Similarly to St Mary’s Stadium, the home of Tottenham Hotspurs offers a number of facilities for disabled fans, including a dedicated liason officer, 51 wheelchair spaces and 36 spaces for ambulant supporters. Personal assistants can attend the games free of charge following confirmation of eligibility, and there are seats available for those with assistance dogs, although the liason officer must be contacted in advance.

Throughout the stadium there are also a number of wheelchair accessible toilets, and many of the refreshment kiosks have low level counters. Blue Badge holders are provided with car parking spaces for a maximum of three hours, although these are first come, first served and cannot be reserved.

The County Ground

Somerset Country Cricket Club works hard to ensure all supporters enjoy a positive experience during matches. Alongside the ambulant seating, accessible toilets and disabled parking, they also offer a number of options for those with visual or hearing impairments, including tablets which are available for hire free of charge from the Andrew Caddick Pavilion. The most recent addition was an adult changing stretcher, which has been added to the baby changing facility.

“It is absolutely vital that we continue to make The County Ground and cricket as a whole accessible to all.  I spoke at length about the possibility of installing the stretcher and we were more than happy to do so. It is essential that we continue to look at ways to improve the facilities for all of our Members.”

-          Guy Lavender, The County Ground Chief Executive

Old Trafford

Manchester United prides itself for having its own association for disabled supporters, which was formed in 1989 to ensure that fans had the best match experience possible. Now regarded as offering some of the best disabled facilities in the world, both home and away supporters can comfortably watch their team play. In addition to the facilities that previously mentioned stadiums offer, those visiting Old Trafford can also make use of accessible coaches, with more than ten capable of taking at least one wheelchair.

Emirates Stadium

The home of Arsenal football team made the news last year when it installed a Changing Places toilet, making it the first Premier League Club to do so. The toilet is much larger than a standard accessible toilet, and includes a number of added facilities such as an adjustable bench, and hoist. Alex Brooker, who is famous for presenting the Paralympics, was present at the opening of the Changing Places toilet, which will now allow for more disabled people to watch their favourite team play.

Image Credit: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Southampton Football Club, The Stadium Guide, Matt Clark, Paul, wonker (Flickr.com)

This content was written by Emily Bray. Please feel free to visit my Google + profile to read more stories.