Yaroslav Hrybalskyy is the chairman of the Lviv regional branch of the Rehabilitation of Disabled People NGO in Ukraine, as well as one of the project coordinators for the National Assembly of Disabled People in Ukraine, CAFE’s local implementing partner in delivering the UEFA Respect Inclusion – Football with No Limits project around UEFA EURO 2012. This is Yaroslav’s account of the success of the project and what lies ahead in Ukraine.

 “It was great to be able to do so much work in Lviv to make it more accessible for disabled people. Three matches took place at the new Arena Lviv stadium, and there was a lot of disabled supporters in attendance at each of them. This included wheelchair users, deaf and hard of hearing supporters, and blind and partially sighted supporters.

“All disabled supporters were provided with a parking pass along with their match tickets, enabling them to access a car park facility directly underneath the stadium. As an illustration of the number of disabled people attending matches, this car park was full throughout the matches we hosted. Volunteers were on hand to assist supporters however they could, including some that spoke in various European languages. There was a lot of work put in to ensure that the stadium was as accessible for disabled supporters as possible. In addition to the car parks, we also had lifts, accessible toilets and dedicated seats in the stadium.

“We had many blind and partially sighted supporters attending matches at the stadium. Under the UEFA Respect Inclusion – Football with No Limits project that the Centre for Access to Football in Europe delivered, we offered an audio descriptive commentary service for these supporters to use. This was extremely popular, and allows the supporter to understand and ‘see’ everything that happens both on the pitch and within the stadium.  It was a great success!

“Prior to the tournament, we conducted a survey of the stadium to see what we were doing right and how we could improve it. Of course, perfection has no limits and there is always something that we could do better. We found generally that it was good, but we will continue to strive to improve things even further. The UEFA Respect Inclusion project has had an incredible impact on society’s attitude here in Ukraine!

“As I said, we know that there is always something that we can do better with. The big issue in Lviv prior to the tournament seemed to be the train station, which was poorly constructed and posed a number of problems for disabled people to use. We have changed the type of floor, walkways and surrounding areas to make it easier for a wheelchair user to navigate. On platforms, we have added tactile tiles and high-contrast lines, which are a good guide for blind and partially sighted people. We have repeatedly used the station in a number of different scenarios to make sure that it is accessible as it can be. It was important to sit down with a number of different people and understand how we could improve, which we did.

“The big change at the airport was the installing of our ambulift, which helps disabled people to enter and exit an aircraft. Unfortunately this was only in place for the duration of the tournament, but it was very well received and hopefully it could return in the future. Trains were also made as accessible as possible by adding easy-to-use ramps, toilets and station lifts. I personally had a very pleasant train ride from Kiev to Lviv, it was a huge improvement.

“We are always looking to improve, and draw inspiration to do this from other European countries. We know that we must develop disability awareness, so that staff understand better how to assist disabled people. We plan on having a number of meetings with leaders within the city now that the tournament is over – it is crucial that we see this as an opportunity to develop rather than a one-off event”.