As part of our interview series focusing on the role of Disability Access Officers (DAOs), CAFE spoke to Jochen Kemmer.

Jochen, who is originally from Germany, currently lives in Barcelona and works as CAFE’s DAO Project Manager.

What was your link to the topic of disability before you started working with CAFE?

My first contact with the topic of disability was at the age of 17. My friend’s brother was a wheelchair user. This was the first time I became aware of the barriers that disabled people still face in our society, from accessible education to accessible infrastructure.

Two years later, after finishing my baccalaureate, I decided to work as a Personal Assistant for a disabled person. I went with him to school, helped him with his homework, and supported him with other daily tasks. I hugely enjoyed this time I spent, and I really felt that I wanted to work more in this area.

Shortly after this, I started my 10-month long Civil Service in a centre for professional reinsertion for blind and partially sighted people. I was mostly responsible for organising leisure time activities like sports and cultural visits.

Through this role, I gained a better understanding of the access requirements of blind and partially sighted people. It was during this time that I also first discovered Audio Descriptive Commentary, whilst organising a trip to Bayer Leverkusen’s stadium.

Two years later, while studying Business Management, I felt the urge to return to the topic of disability, and completed a four-month internship as an assistant in a centre for differently disabled teenagers. This role helped me learn a lot about different types of disabilities.

I stayed close to the topic of disability after this. I worked as a volunteer, coaching sports activities to differently disabled persons. Then suddenly, the opportunity to work as part of the CAFE team arose.

How did you come to join CAFE?

I was living in Lebanon, working on various social projects, including working as a teacher for refugees and as a coach in two football academies. I was also doing some work for Special Olympics Lebanon and another Lebanese NGO involved in sport.

It was during this time that I saw CAFE’s job advertisement, and thought, “Wow, that’s my dream job.” Two months later, I joined the team, and now, two years later, I still have the feeling that I am living the dream.

What role do you play in the Disability Access Officer project?

My role is to support clubs and federations in their implementation of the DAO criterion. This means that I support them by:

  • Setting up a strategic plan for implementing the DAO project
  • Providing support in writing UEFA HatTrick applications
  • Hosting on workshops, including Disability Inclusion and Etiquette Training, and the role of the DAO
  • Facilitating exchange meetings between DAOs from different clubs
  • Setting up communication campaigns to raise awareness

I see myself as someone who has a considerable knowledge base on European access and inclusion. My aim is to learn from the experience of DAOs, clubs, FAs and leagues all around Europe, in order to share best practices.

To do this I try to exchange information as much as possible with them, by sharing stories as well as trying to guide them in other areas CAFE is working on.

What were your major activities during your first season with CAFE?

By the close of 2018, we had the managed to organise DAO workshops in 20 different countries. This was a huge success story. All these workshops helped raise awareness within football of the importance of inclusive match day experiences and accessible stadiums.

Often these workshops are the first step in raising awareness of the topic of access and inclusion, and they make people reflect on their attitudes towards disabled people. Everybody deserves respect, and if we manage to make more people think about the barriers society puts in front of disabled people, and the ways we can take them away, that is already great progress.

I have also introduced the DAO topic at other international events, including at the Annual UEFA Club Licensing Workshop, the EFDN Conferences, the Council of Europe in Lithuania, the UEFA Stadium and Security Conference, and the UEFA FSR Workshops.

I shadowed different DAOs on a typical match day, in order to gain a better understanding of services and facilities, and their work with disabled fans. We have managed to set up bilateral meetings between different DAOs on match days, and we hope to build on this further.

The constant communication I conduct with clubs, FAs and leagues has also helped increase the number of participants in our CAFE Week of Action.

How do you collaborate with DAOs from clubs and National DAO coordinators?

I try to learn from their experiences and share their knowledge. Often a DAO or a National DAO coordinator calls me with questions, and I try to answer using CAFE’s knowledge or by linking him/her with people who are specialists in this area.

What has been your most memorable experience in this role so far?

It is amazing every time you hear a positive story on access and inclusion. These can be personal fan stories, a club starting a new inclusive project, or a league appointing a National DAO coordinator.

These stories are motivating for myself and hopefully for so many other people to continue our work towards totally accessible football, and in the long run towards a totally inclusive society.

What do you like most about your job?

Definitely the people. For many years, I worked in environments where people saw their time at work as just their job. Now, I meet so many people who are passionate and enthusiastic about what they do.

Meeting someone at a workshop who feels concerned about a topic and who is passionate about improving access and inclusion always makes me happy. I also feel blessed, because I finally have the chance for my work to have a small but positive impact on society. I find this highly rewarding.