The Blind Hammer Column

*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.

David Griffith