To mark International Day of Disabled People 2020, CAFE Media and Communications Manager Michael Rice has spoke about the importance of empowering disabled people to act as self-advocates.

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Each year on 3 December, organisations and industries across the world come together to celebrate International Day of Disabled People – a celebration of the diverse roles disabled people can play within the wider society and a show of solidarity with the estimated 1.85 billion disabled people living today.

The day provides a great opportunity to reflect on the improvements that we have seen to ensure more disabled people can take their rightful places across society. It should also be a time for us all to reflect on how much work there is still to be done.

Disabled people are people. At CAFE we promote the social model of disability – that a person isn’t disabled by any conditions but rather by the barriers placed in front of them by society. This could be an environmental barrier, such as a building accessible only by steps, a communication barrier, such as information provided in inaccessible formats, institutional barriers as a company without an inclusive recruitment policy, or, and perhaps most destructive, attitudinal barriers.

An attitudinal barrier can often be the most difficult barrier to remove, as it requires changing a person’s mindset and innate belief. Whether their intentions are good or not, too many people still consider disabled people to be charitable cases who need help and pity.

Now it may be the case that, from time to time, a disabled person might require some help and support. But this is also true of non-disabled people, and this should not define a person’s perception of disability.

We at CAFE believe that live sport has the ability to change lives, creating memories that will last a lifetime and ensuring disabled people are a key part of the global sporting landscape as fans, employees, volunteers and leaders. This means that everyone has equal opportunities to contribute in an accessible, inclusive and welcoming environment.

Disabled people are at the heart of all we do, and we support the further empowerment of disabled people through live sport. Disabled fans should have the opportunity, as all other fans do, to act as self-advocates and represent their own experiences and requirements to their clubs.

Since we were established in 2009, CAFE has supported the creation and development of user-led disabled supporters associations (DSAs), taking a pan-disability approach to ensure that the voices of disabled people are heard.

Thanks to the increasing number of DSAs worldwide, disabled fans are making positive and inclusive change in their local clubs, national leagues and global tournaments.

DSAs provide disabled people with a platform to actively express their opinions, share experiences and influence decision-making. They can raise wider awareness amongst their fellow fans and encourage clubs to open a dialogue with their disabled fans that may not already exist.

Disabled people shouldn’t just be told what they can and cannot have – they must be seen as equals and enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else.

The wider empowerment of disabled people can only lead to improved decision-making and true inclusion. The phrase ‘nothing about us, without us’ rings true – disabled people have the right to represent their own interests and deserve the same opportunities as everyone else within society.

We encourage stakeholders across the industry to take the opportunity of International Day of Disabled People to open a dialogue with their disabled fans. Find out first-hand what works and what could be better, and how you can help to remove the barriers that ‘disable’ some of your most loyal and passionate supporters.

If you would like to find out more about the creation or development of DSAs, please visit the disabled supporters section of the CAFE website. You can also visit to find out more about our wider works, or contact us using any of the following methods:

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: +44 (0)208 065 5108

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Published 3/12/2020