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 http://www.adayinmywheels.com/2014/06/it-seems-being-disabled-means-you-have.html.

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