On World Disability Day, we examine the progress UEFA has made in this area alongside our partner, Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE), over the past ten years.

CAFE was set up in 2009, funded by UEFA, to advise on increasing access to football for disabled people, improving stadium infrastructures and raising awareness around inclusion within the game.

Over the past ten years, we have worked together to achieve a series of important successes, breaking new ground for disabled fans attending football games.

Live football is now enjoyed by more disabled supporters than ever. Clubs, leagues and national associations are increasingly aware of the importance of access and inclusion, and governing bodies have outlined their commitment to a game that is accessible, inclusive and welcoming for all.

Accessible seating

The creation and development of accessible seating, not just in greater numbers, but also in better locations with improved sightlines inside stadiums, has been a key focus for the partnership.

CAFE has carried out over 90 access appraisals for venues across Europe and beyond to help improve accessible facilities, using the UEFA and CAFE Good Practice Guide to Creating an Accessible Stadium and Matchday Experience (Access for All) as a benchmark.

The guide sets out the minimum accessibility requirements for new and existing stadiums, based on European standards, and is a valuable tool for any national association or club.

Audio-descriptive commentary (ADC) training

ADC is a dedicated service that can help partially sighted and blind fans to enjoy an inclusive matchday. In the context of a live football match, ADC ensures partially sighted or blind fans have a complete understanding of the match they are attending.

UEFA has worked alongside CAFE for a number of years to provide ADC at tournament finals (UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League), as well as at all matches played during UEFA EURO 2012 and UEFA EURO 2016.

It will be present once more at UEFA EURO 2020, and since 2009, we have helped deliver training to more than 150 people who specialise in producing high-quality ADC coverage at matches.

Developing the Disability Access Officer role

Since 2015, the Disability Access Officer position has been enshrined within the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, ensuring that across the continent, clubs are supporting the provision of inclusive, accessible facilities and services.

CAFE was commissioned by UEFA to oversee the implementation of this role, and together, we have so far provided training to more than 850 people across 25 member associations.

In January, the first meeting of the Disability Access Officer Network Group was held in Barcelona, and was attended by 30 specialists from national associations, clubs, Disability NGOs and disabled fans groups.

Establishing disabled supporters associations

Nearly 200 dedicated club and national team supporters associations have been established across Europe, providing a ready-made community for disabled fans, as well as a forum to liaise with organisations to improve provisions and discuss on-going issues.

This dialogue helps clubs and national associations better understand the needs of and challenges facing their disabled supporters, to work towards providing total access for all.

The eighth annual CAFE Week of Action – Total Football #TotalAccess – will take place from 7-15 March 2020.

The initiative, which started in 2013, will offer stakeholders across the game the opportunity to promote access, inclusion and a welcoming environment for disabled people.

The CAFE Week of Action celebrates wider inclusion within football, and the many different roles that disabled people can play within it. An information pack, available in nine languages, is available to download here.

This article originally appeared on UEFA.com, published 3/12/2019.