People with disabilities and sports

We want to be spectators. Many of us want to be or are, participants. So why is it that we face so many freaking barriers?

Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

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Arial shot of full baseball field stadium
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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As a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan for more than four decades and compound archery 2024 Paralympic hopeful, it is unfortunate that one of the places that I have experienced the most overt public disability discrimination is in the sports setting.

The Stadiums / Stadium Amenities

Stadium accessibility is notoriously sketchy. The ADA is about to celebrate its 32nd birthday. Anything designed more than 35 years ago can be difficult to negotiate. Candlestick Park, a pre-ADA ballpark fortunately no longer with us, was a nightmare. My father used to get someone to fold and take my wheelchair up a monster three-story escalator in front of me, and then I hung onto his back for dear life (even as a six-foot-tall 12-year-old). New stadiums aren’t always better. Litigation has been filed against the Mariners, Baltimore Orioles, and a “less than” experience that was part of a Wrigley renovation ADA lawsuit.

Even when stadium accessibility is good, there are lines for elevators that detract from the experience. Sometimes I leave ball games before I want to, just to beat the crowd of parents pushing strollers to the elevator. If it’s a nail-biter and I stay to the end, I’m guaranteed an extra 30-minute wait getting down to street level because people with mobility issues don’t get priority elevator use. Lines for the bathrooms are also problematic. I rarely drink beverages while at a ball game in fear of not being able to find a functional, accessible restroom.

Getting to the stadiums can also be problematic or expensive for people with disabilities. Parking for my last ball game was $50. They used to let people with accessible parking cards park in the player parking section, but that stopped a few years ago when they converted one of the parking lots to office…

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Sheri Byrne-Haber, CPACC

LinkedIn Top Voice for Social Impact 2022. UX Collective Author of the Year 2020. Disability Inclusion SME. Sr Staff Accessibility Architect @ VMware.