Can we be equal?

23 Oct 15

Can it be right that two wheelchair users who want to attend a sporting event together are not 'allowed' to sit with each other?  If this happened to any other couple there would be universal outrage and quite rightly so.  But this is what happens at some sporting (and other) events.  It also happens on trains where many will only have one wheelchair accessible space in standard and one in first class

In this day and age you would have think that the world might have moved on a little.  One of the campaigns that I am working on is about accessible seating.  When my thirteen year old was about 3 we went to see one of those Christmas extravaganza's that is guaranteed to blow your wallet and  patience.  I was told that as I had booked a wheelchair space and a carer space she wasn't allowed to sit with me.  They actually stood in front of me and explained that she wasn't my 'carer'.  I had figured that out.  I was then pointed to a bank of seats about 20 rows away and told that non carers had to sit there.  Luckily about half way through their slightly patronising explanation they realised the ludicrous nature of what they were saying and retracted.

The Premier League have recently announced that they will be making their stadiums fit the minimal accessibility standard by 2017.  OK, this is a step forward, but what I would mostly like to see if staff trained and confident to make decisions about how people sit together.  Surely someone must be able to stand back and say "OK let us see how we can help you' and be flexible.

In London 2012 one of the successes was that disabled people were able to sit with their families.  My husband uses a wheelchair occasionally and the three of us (plus a wheelchair using friend who came with us) were all allowed to sit together.  That never happened to me before.  But it should.  I am not asking for special treatment, or free tickets, but the ability to book like anyone else (that is probably a long way off) and sit with the few people that I book with

I understand that some stadiums are older.  I understand that they may not know how many wheelchair users they will have coming to an event.  But train your staff.  I was told earlier this year that 'people like me' were not allowed to chose which exit I used to get out of a building.  My response was "Really, Welsh people can't decide that'.  I didn't mean welsh people.  If those sorts of attitudes went away then the world would be a better place.