The following story was posted to by Sibylle Freiermuth, discussing the importance of accessible sporting venues.

Disabled athletes have long been fighting for the opportunity to participate on the field, but access to the stands is equally important.

Disabled people often face challenging obstacles when they want to participate in sport. And while the struggle continues, there have been great advancements in disability sport. For example, the growing prestige of the Paralympics is providing athletes around the world with the opportunity to compete at the international level.

However, the inclusion of disabled people must not be limited to the field and equal efforts have to be made to ensure that the stands are accessible for all.

At the legal level a number of countries have legislated that stadiums must be designed to provide equal access. For example, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires new stadiums to be accessible for all and the UK Equality Act 2010 prohibits disability discrimination. Unfortunately, these new construction requirements often do not apply retroactively, so many fans continue to face difficulties in older venues.

International governing bodies such as UEFA and FIFA are attempting to promote attendance by selling tickets specifically reserved for disabled people. Ahead of UEFA EURO 2016, accessibility tickets can be requested online until 25 April, and a lottery has been set up in case demand exceeds the number of available tickets.

Unfortunately, even with these measures in place disabled people are often underrepresented on game day. At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, at least one percent of the tickets were reserved for disabled customers. Nevertheless, in the final round of ticket sales FIFA had to make the majority of the reserved tickets available to the general public because there had not been enough demand from people with limited mobility.

Rather than indicating a lack of interest, it is a good reminder that sport never takes place in a vacuum and is always embedded in a broader social context. Even when a stadium is designed to ensure easy access, the way to the stadium itself is often an even bigger hurdle for fans.

The mayor of Rio is trying to address this issue ahead of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games by improving the accessibility of major tourist attractions and event venues. Although the “Accessible Routes Project” in Rio is a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go before sporting events are truly inclusive.

Article originally published by at

A verson of this article is also available in French.

Published 21/04/2016