CAFE recently attended a workshop hosted by the Football Federation of Ukraine, entitled "Ensuring Disability Access to Football Matches as one of the Core Pillars of Today's FSR".

The event, hosted at the House of Football in Kyiv, brought together stakeholders from across Ukrainian football, disability advocates and politicians to discuss improved access for disabled fans.

Back in 2014 the FFU and CAFE signed a memorandum of understanding, to work together towards a more accessible and inclusive game.

As part of the workshop, CAFE Eastern European Development Officer Esther Jones Russell presented on the importance of the Disability Access Officer (DAO) role. The FFU has enshrined the position within its own club licensing regulations, requiring clubs to appoint a dedicated point of contact for their disabled fans.

To further inform on the position, Dinamo Zagreb DAO Iva Cigrovskij also spoke about her own experiences in the role.

Iva told the gathered delegates, "Having desire and goodwill can increase the number of disabled fans attending matches from 3 to 120".

Esther also provided CAFE's Disability Inclusion and Etiquette Training programme, which includes advice on how to best communicate with disabled people and how to provide an inclusive welcome.

The workshop was opened by FFU General Secretary Yuriy Zapisotskyi, with a further introduction provided by the Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for the Rights of Disabled Persons, Valeriy Sushkevych.

Vice President of the FFU's Association of Football for Disabled People of Ukraine, Yuriy Tytarenko, also spoke to open the workshop.

Yuriy noted, "The FFU has repeatedly been recognised as a leader amongst the European football community for implementing CAFE social programmes, including the successful Captains of Change project to promote the wider employment of disabled people within football".

CAFE's works with the FFU began in 2011, ahead of the country co-hosting UEFA EURO 2012. A three-year legacy project was delivered after the Finals, during which Ukraine became the first country to host CAFE Week of Action activities.

As part of CAFE's works at UEFA EURO 2012, audio-descriptive commentary was introduced into Ukrainian football stadiums for the first time. One of the commentators who received CAFE's expert training package, Liubomyr Pokotylo, also attended the workshop.

Now a member of CAFE's recently-launched Audio-descriptive Commentary Network, Liubomyr continues to provide the service for partially sighted and blind fans at the NSC Olimpiyskyi stadium in Kyiv.

Speaking after the event, Esther said, "It was a pleasure to present at this workshop, and we must say a huge thank you to everyone at the FFU for welcoming us to Kyiv. It was also great to have Iva here to discuss her experiences in Croatia, and it was great to hear how she is already making huge changes in Zagreb".

"A big thank you also to FFU Disability Access Officer Coordinator Liza Stepaniuk for coordinating the workshop, and we look forward to continuing our long-standing cooperation for many years to come", added Esther.

A version of this article is also available in Ukrainian and Russian.

Published 23/02/2018