The Blind Hammer Column

West Ham and Accessibility

*Blind Hammer reports back from the Disabled Supporters Advisory Board(DSAB).

The latest DSAB met with Karen Brady and staff from West Ham on Wednesday 15th at the London Stadium.

This is a brief report on some of the highlighted issues.

All at the meeting agreed that West Ham had made progress in meeting the needs of its Disabled Supporters.

The club had produced a Video to highlight awareness of Disabled West Ham Supporters and attempt to generally increase understanding of their needs. This can be viewed on the website.

An outstanding issue remains with TFL at Stratford. Supporters referred to situations where they had arrived at Stratford Station only to find that no ramps had been organised to allow Wheelchair Using West Ham supporters to alight appropriately. Karen Brady committed West Ham staff to offer their support to TFL, if they could not provide appropriate ramps the club would be determined to provide these themselves.

In terms of website accessibility for visually impaired supporters, whilst work remains to be done, an Action Plan had now been agreed. The club will meet with me soon to monitor progress .

The Insightful Irons who organise an Audio Commentary Service for Blind and Visually Impaired Supporters are planning to extend the services they provide. They will be developing Podcasts for playing over the commentary headsets both prior to the game and at half time.

Further ideas to be investigated include having a number for Visually Impaired Supporters to text the Commentators with comments and questions during the match.

Another idea is to set up an Insightful Irons email list so that Visually Impaired Supporters can get to know each other and comment on all matters West Ham.

The point here is that Blind and Visually Impaired Supporters can walk within inches of each other and not be aware of each other’s presence. It is hard for Visually Impaired Supporters to meet and form a West ham “community. However there are always exceptions, as happened to me once. My Guide Dogs decided to say hello to another Guide Dog, precipitating a meeting for me with another Blind Supporter.

Finally in this brief report back the Club announced that they planned to open a Sensory Room, hopefully from next season, to assist Supporters who require it, including supporters on the Autistic spectrum.

The club also welcomes feedback from the “Access to All” website which plans to offer “Trip Advisor” type feedback on the experience of visiting football stadiums for disabled supporters. In addition the details of the Premier League Disability Advisory Group – Away Fan Survey was circulated.

Fuller minutes of the meeting will be available on the Club Website in due course.

Before the meeting, a Supporter, on this Website, asked me if I thought that the service West Ham provided was “Fair and Reasonable.

The short answer is that I feel there is a commitment. West Ham are committed to making fair and reasonable access to Disabled supporters. The spectrum of disability is vast however, which is why the Club need an Advisory Board to advise it.

As technology and knowledge increases the support for Disabled people can be improved further. What is possible now may not have been possible 5 or even 2 years ago. The important thing therefore is that the Club, listens, consults and then is serious in its commitment to improve services.

West Ham certainly appears to be amongst the leaders in providing Accessible Services compared to other PL clubs.

What my experience of the DSAB has done is increase my awareness of West Ham behind the scenes. There is a lot of cynicism expressed about West Ham, even by our own supporters. I do not support all the directions and policies of the Club but I do feel that the staffs behind the scenes are good people doing their best to do a good job. Personally I am proud of their attempt to keep the “Family Ethos” of West Ham alive in sometimes difficult times.

COYI
David Griffith


The Blind Hammer Column

Feedback Invited On Accessibility

Blind Hammer invites feedback on Accessibility Support at West Ham.

This week will see another meeting of the Disabled Supporters Advisory Board. (DSAB). I sit on this Board to represent and promote the interest of supporters who are blind, visually Impaired and those with hearing impairments. I am, though, like all Board members interested in all aspects of Accessibility. I can try and represent any Accessibility issues raised here.

The DSAB Board provides the club with feedback to improve its services.

Anybody who has positive or negative feedback that they would like me to address can do so by either posting comments below or can email me privately.
To prevent web robots picking up my email address you need to create an email address out of daj.griffith and then add the at gmail.com suffix.

Comments, questions and emails need to reach me by the absolute latest lunchtime on Wednesday 16th January so that I can organise their submission to the Board. Ideally you should send in messages by Tuesday 15th January.

For fuller information about Accessibility at West Ham you can download the West Ham Accessibility Statement from my Sendspace server on https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/uuiteb
To contact the West Ham Accessibility Team you should call 0333 030 0174 or email accessibility@westhamunited.co.uk

Below is a sketch of some of the services West Ham provides. Specific details and advice should be confirmed with the Accessibility Team.

Accessing Support
Disabled supporters need to register with the Accessibility Team to receive support. This will normally involve providing some evidence of Impairment. Support is also provided for senior citizens, fans with mobility difficulties or temporary injuries and pregnant mothers.

Tickets
Concessionary Tickets are available for Supporters with qualifying Disability. If there is a need for personal assistance in relation to disability the club will normally provide a complementary free second Carer’s ticket.
Support is also provided for Disabled Supporters through a dedicated Ticket Purchase line.

Accessibility Shuttle Bus Service
18 complimentary Accessibility shuttle buses run from Stratford and Stratford International to and from the Stadium. There is also a service for away supporters. Bus permits are available from the Accessibility Team. A permit would also be issued for a personal assistant if required. This is a popular and heavily used service so some queuing is likely but the service does appear to be continually improving. Chairs are now available on request for supporters who need them in the queue.

Car Parking
The Club has limited provision for car parking at the Stadium. 49 accessible parking spaces including six for away supporters have been reserved. Spaces are allocated seasonally and a waiting list is in place.

Drop-off facility
You should contact the Accessibility team to enquire about a pick-up/drop-off facility using a car or Taxi.

*Seating *
There are 253 wheelchair accessible spaces in the stadium. West ham does not set any upper limit to the number of Ambulant Disabled Supporters they will assist.

*Match day Assistance *
Disabled Supporter Assistants (DSA) are on hand to assist supporters before,
During and after the match. DSAs are identifiable as they wear a high visibility pink stewards Vest.

Audio Commentary Service
A free Audio commentary service organised by the “Insightful Irons” is available to all partially-sighted and blind supporters. You should contact the Accessibility Team in advance of a match day if interested for any particular game. Headsets are now available on season long loan for season ticket holders.

Notes on the DSAB
The Board Membership was established by application in 2017. The composition was independently determined by existing Disabled supporters on the main SAB who act as Joint chair. They have attempted to ensure a wide representation of impairment insights but this will be continually reviewed.

This is a brief summary only. Please contact the Accessibility Team or consult the Accessibility Statement for fuller details. If you have any queries and concerns then do not hesitate to also contact me direct either below by comment or privately by email.

COYI
David Griffith


The Blind Hammer Column

The "Mascot Scandal" - The Guardian Target West Ham Again.

Blind Hammer looks at the latest example of an unpleasant campaign.

The reporting of the so called “Mascot Scandal” demonstrates yet again, the Guardian unpleasant and biased football journalism.

For their own reason, the Guardian have decided that the decision to allow West Ham use of the London Stadium is a national disgrace. Ever since, they have pursued a relentless vendetta.

Routinely they snidely describe West Ham as “Tax Payers United”. This unwarranted smear may have been funny as a one off satirical comment but the constant smearing as West Ham as thieves of national resources is one eyed at best. They have shown surprising silence about the Stadium operators need to control budgets.

The good news story about the move to the London Stadium receives no attention at all. Instead every chance is taken to slur the venue. It has been described by them, completely unfairly, as a “soulless bowl”, Lacking in atmosphere. Whilst the London Stadium is self-evidently not Upton Park it does in fact reportedly create more atmosphere than that at similar Stadiums such as the Emirates and Etihad.

The Guardian gloried in reporting fan unrest when the team were performing poorly. They tried to link performance to the alleged Stadium failings.

Now the team is performing better this narrative is not so convenient.
They have moved to other targets. Their latest attack concerns West Ham alleged greed and avarice for charging fees for Children to appear as Mascots.

The headline of this criticism is all about West Ham, even though West Ham are not the only club, by any means, to charge fees for this.

Now charging parents £700 for their Children to appear as Mascots is undeniably steep. I would never contemplate doing this. However I would also never pay through the nose for a Corporate Box either. The ability to pay for privileged access to Football Stadia is a fact of Premiership life. In reality the description of West Ham as avaricious is completely unfair.

On Saturday West Ham sold an extraordinary 54,887 seats for an FA Cup game against Birmingham. There is no doubt that this gate, starkly distinguished from Spurs recent 30,000 at Wembley, arises not just from loyal West Ham support but also progressive ticketing policy.

For the game against Birmingham I personally paid £16 with the club providing a free seat for my sighted carer and space for my Guide Dog. Tickets were available to the public on general sale for £10. Any adult paying for a seat could bring a child for only £1. A father and son, or Mother and daughter could then attend the game on Saturday for £11.

A key part of West Ham’s bid for the London Stadium was their commitment to provide affordable football. They have delivered on this promise for 3 seasons now. It is still possible to pay for an expensive ticket, as at all grounds, but West Ham have consistently held prices down for other supporters. I still pay £299 for my concessionary Season ticket, a sum identical to that which I paid in my first season at the London Stadium. This ticket is incidentally cheaper than the Season ticket I had at Upton Park.

As reported on this site last week, West Ham ticket revenue has not grown, and remains at a surprisingly low level. . They are selling nearly twice as many tickets now, but at a lower price.

None of this fits the Guardian’s view of West Ham as a greedy avaricious club. As these facts do not fit their desired narrative they instead focus on the fees charged to the tiny number of families using the Mascot facility.

Nothing it seems will be reported which detracts from a view of West ham as a club fleecing not only the Tax payer but their supporters.

There are, in fact, lots of good news stories about West Ham and their supporters. West Ham have a continuing and extending reputation for providing one of the best, if not the best, disabled access in the country. This improvement extends far beyond pre-existing excellent access facilities at the Stadium. For example, as well as providing free in stadium commentary support for blind and visually impaired supporters West Ham organise 18 buses to convey the increasing number of their disabled supporters attending games. West Ham are making it possible for disabled supporters who could never previously attend, to now achieve their ambition. These positives are never reported.

Rich men and women will buy privileged access to their favourite football club. Short of a Social revolution this will continue . The important thing is that affordable access is provided for the rest of us. In this sense we can, despite the Guardian vendetta, be justifiably proud of our club.
COYI
David Griffith.


The Blind Hammer Column

Reflections on Brighton

Blind Hammer reflects on an important comeback.

Pellegrini has got so much right recently it seems impertinent, if not sacrilegious to question his judgements here.

Nevertheless I was concerned as soon as I heard the team against Brighton, in my case just as I was scrambling into my seat seconds before kick-off.

I was surprise that Carroll was partnering Arnautovic up front.

This was Carroll’s first start in a year. He last started against a controversially exhausted West Bromwich Albion, forced to play twice whilst West Ham had enjoyed time off.

Carroll’s crucial 2 goals then probably sealed Pardew’s fate and reinforced West Ham’s climb to relative safety.

Sadly Carroll’s performances this year are not yet reminiscent of his impact in his pomp. There is more of a lumbering John Carew in his latter days now.

Hopefully Carroll’s best days are not past. For now I am more concerned about his impact on the team’s structure.

. Playing as a pivot in front of Arnautovic who took up a number 10 role, he was rarely effective.
He was unable to exert pressure on two of Brighton’s most impressive performers, Duffy and Dunk. West Ham appeared then, geared to play to Brighton’s strengths rather than weaknesses.

More crucially this formation seemed to stifle Arnautovic. The plan was to use Felipe Anderson and Robert Snodgrass on the wings to support Arnautovic in a deeper role.

This not only withdrew Arnautovic from his most menacing role, it also allowed Brighton to unexpectedly dominate large parts of the first half as they outnumbered West Ham in midfield.

By half time I wanted Carroll off, and wanted Noble or possibly Antonio on to provide pressure on Brighton’s midfield dominance.

Whilst Carroll’s withdrawal surprised nobody, I was disappointed with the introduction of Perez.

Perez did nothing to redress our lack of competitiveness in midfield. I could detect no serious contribution from Perez throughout the second half. I felt that Antonio in particular would have relieved the pressure on Anderson much earlier.

Two things are becoming increasingly clear. The first is that Anderson and Rice, despite their encouraging fitness and robustness both now need a rest. If they are to perform against Arsenal they need time to recharge.

The second is that West Ham has an ongoing problem with crosses, both in open play and from set pieces. I have rarely felt more nervous when an opposition team won a corner against us as I did last night. My in stadium commentator predicted Brighton’s breaching of our defence via a corner long before they actually scored. It is a priority for Pellegrini to coach better defence from set pieces.

Pellegrini’s introduction of Noble and Antonio was in the event game transforming. Whilst I was instantly relieved that Antonio and Noble had finally entered the fray, I still felt that either should have replaced Carroll at half time.

Arnautovic, restored at the head of our attack showed how he can be a match saver. It is just a shame he could not be a match winner. Nevertheless Pellegrini deserves credit for reinstating Arnautovic to his most lethal role, and his introduction of Noble and Antonio definitely saved us from defeat.

My feeling though is that his reliance on Carroll in the first half, and Perez in the second half probably allowed Brighton to steal a point.

COYI
David Griffith


The Blind Hammer Column

Anderson Shelter

Blind Hammer reflects how our match winner is protecting us from an injury crisis.

I had low expectations for this game. This pessimism only increased when I heard Hernandez and Zabaleta added to our burgeoining list of absences.

At times this season West Ham has fielded possibly the strongest bench in their history. This could not describe the bench here. Only 6 players were named, including a still apparently unfit Carroll, alongside youngsters Silva and Coventry who have yet to make their Premier League debuts.

Yet despite these disadvantages the brilliance of Anderson allowed us to dig out another valuable 3 point. The pre-match narrative of West Ham reeling from injuries and a damaging home defeat by Watford was confounded.

Anderson was the eventual headline maker. Yet, right from the start, West Ham exceeded expectations on a literally wider front. They subdued a buoyant Southampton on a high after two recent victories.

Antonio and more surprisingly, Captain for the night, Cresswell both threatened from the wings. Cresswell actually set up the clearest chance which resulted in Perez missing a sitter.
Both Anderson and Diangana consistently added to the threat from the wings.

West Ham really should have been ahead at |Half time. We feared ruing missed opportunities. There were danger signs from Southampton’s ability to rake crosses across our box. This eventually delivered dividends when Redmond scrambled a goal. Antonio failure to preserve our offside line marring his otherwise excellent performance.

Yet within 2 minute Anderson showed why Pellegrini was so determined to invest £42 million in him. His thunderbolt transformed the game.

Anderson’s world class skills showed how he can make even a team stretched by horrendous injuries thrive. He is truly providing shelter for the Hammers from their current storm of injuries.

Further evidence of his value was provided by his clinical winner. Yet this is not a one man show. Anderson’s goal was born out of Pellegrini’s coaching transformation.

Southampton alongside Fulham and others have failed to catch up with West Ham’s new counter attacking threat.

Finally opposing teams must now fear a counter attacking riposte from West Ham when they win a corner against us.

Whatever the paucity of Southampton’s defensive organisation West Ham’s winner was born in the hours of coaching Pellegrini has wrought on this squad. A deep sitting defensive back five have been dispatched. Instead we have a pressing, counter attacking pacey outfit. Without this counter attacking coaching and attacking organisation Anderson would not have provided the clinical coup de grace. In this sense Rice is as important as Anderson.

It is beyond doubt that West Ham now have a match winner in Anderson who could potentially punish any team.

Can we dare to dream of cup glory?

COYI
David Griffith,


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