Nigel no friends

State of origin with my boys

State of origin with my boys

This is a photo of the boys and I at the recent State of origin (clever Elly managed to find it online, and although you need to look carefully, it’s definitely us). It was a great night, especially since the blues won for the first time in nine years.

But aside from the sea of blue, what do you notice about the photo?

That’s right, sporting venues seem to be of the opinion that disabled people have no more than one friend. And since my 2 boys needed to sit together, they were allocated seating one road in front of me, and about 10 spots to the left.

The guilty venue was ANZ Stadium (which had allocated only single seats next to the wheelchair spaces), but we’ve had similar experiences elsewhere. Over summer, we joined the singing throngs to see the West Sydney Wanderers at Pirtech stadium in Parramatta. At that venue, the wheelchair section has no seating for able-bodied people, so  the boys were allocated seats nearby, but not close enough for any conversation. They could have chosen to stand next to me, but that’s a bit much to ask teenage boys for two hours worth of game time.

I really don’t want to sound like a whinger, but accessibility is about more than simply allocating spaces for wheelchairs. it’s about ensuring that people don’t feel excluded, isolated, and shoved aside. It’s about creating a welcoming environment, one where people with disabilities are treated as part of the tribe – as people whose enjoyment of the event is as much about going out with friends as it is about whatever is going on in the field (or on the stage).

Note: I was prompted to blog on this issue after reading about Chloe’s frustration when purchasing tickets for a concert – see

PS my apologies to anybody named Nigel (esp. cous). I just couldn’t resist this title.


About Author

Shane is an ethicist and theologian, Honorary Associate for the Centre of Disability Research and Policy, the University of Sydney, and Assistant Director, Policy, at the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation against People with Disability. Shane is proudly disabled, and an occasional blogger on


  • Chloe (@CHolgatee)
    June 22, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    It is so frustrating!
    Great blog btw 🙂

  • Katja Stokley
    June 26, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    There’s some term for apologizing prior to making a legitimate argument (“I really don’t want to sound like a whinger, but…”). Don’t sell your (valid) opinion short.

  • Gina @
    August 23, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Absolutely not a whinger. As a family of three we are generally denied the chance to buy tickets together unless we agree to take Mac out of his wheelchair and sit in standard seats… difficult to do, he can’t sit unassisted without harnesses, lateral supports etc. Venues see no problem in telling us that only one of us can sit with our 10yo son and the other must sit ‘nearby’ but elsewhere. Going to the AFL with friends the computer couldn’t even handle a ‘family booking’ where one child uses a wheelchair. The hours on the phone it takes to book a ticket takes its toll, we never ask to use a companion card or get a free seat as we want to do what all other families do, go to a game/event/show together, sit together, sit with friends. There’s certainly some advocacy needed around this mindset held by the venues, architects designing them and event organisers.

    still looking for a small footprint, standing height mosh pit wheelchair that can wriggle, shake, bounce and roll for when Mac hits his teenage years… 😉

    • Shane Clifton
      August 29, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      I hope you find that mosh pit, Gina. I’ve just been purchasing some tickets for the basketball in the US, and we had the same problem. This seems to be a universal issue.


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