Sunday, November 16, 2014

Inclusiveness

To Twickenham yesterday for the England South Africa match. And a jolly good match it was. England made some silly mistakes which allowed the Springboks to take the win, but in the end it was a close fought affair.

Lesley is very proud that Dave Atwood now seems to be more or less a fixture in the England team. She is proud because he used to be a shot putter for Avon Schools. If he had passed the ball a second or two earlier at the end of his storming 'gallop' (as one commentator called it) he would truly have been the hero of the hour.

I was there as carer/assistant for my friend Tony, who is a much keener rugby fan than I am. He is registered disabled and has to use crutches to walk. The deal is that as a person with a disability he gets a reasonably priced ticket, plus a free one for an assistant plus a guaranteed parking space near the stadium. All this sounds like a good deal - and in many ways it is. It certainly enabled me to see the match from the perspective of a disabled person.

Twickenham's stands are almost completely covered, so that when it rains - as it did yesterday - the crowd stays more or less dry. The 'less' is the front row of seats - where the wheelchairs are parked and where everyone with a disability (and their carers) gets soaked. And the view is, frankly, poor - unless the action comes your way. If it weren't for the giant screen, large parts of the game would have been a distant mystery.

No doubt Twickenham believe that they have done all they could to cater for rugby fans with disabilities - which may well include men injured while playing the game. Neither Tony nor I is unable to afford the cost of a ticket to an international, but the simple fact is that he cannot sit in a normal seat. And of course both of us are happy to take any offer coming his way. If there were better seats somewhere higher in the stand that could accommodate wheelchairs, and other mobility aids, would we have preferred to pay more for the better accommodation and better view? Maybe we would. (I should confess here that I paid nothing at all for yesterday's match, though I would happily have forked out the price of a ticket). Is it right that rugby fans with disabilities (and the same may be true of football fans at Wembley) are given the worst view in the worst conditions? I couldn't possibly comment.

I have absolutely no complaints about the guaranteed parking space. An undiluted boon. The journey away from the stadium was a different matter. Ninety minutes from the stadium to the M3 tested all our patience.

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